~ A First Hand Account ~

By Mary Smith Dabney Ware

From A New World Through Old Eyes,
published 1923 by Putnam's Sons


Mary Dabney Meets Generals Grant, Sherman and McPherson

Of all the families in Raymond during War times, one of the most effected was that of Augustine and Elizabeth Dabney. Augustine Dabney was a probate judge and worked hard to support his wife and ten children. Of the children, three became soldiers in the Confederate Army. His wife and daughters helped to nurse the wounded soldiers following the Battle of Raymond. The following is an account by Mary Dabney [Ware], sixth born, who recalled her journey to Vicksburg in the days following the battle. During the trip, she met and visited with the three most prominent officers of the Union Army: Grant, Sherman and McPherson.

Seeking Supplies in Vicksburg
"We heard that General Grant was giving away the wagons and mules driven into Vicksburg from the plantations on the route of his march. It was decided that Kate Nelson [friend] and I should go to Vicksburg and obtain transportation from General Grant in person with a safe conduct from him through the Union lines. One evening late, just as this decision had been reached, a lady of our acquaintance, Mrs. McCowan, came over to see me. She had heard that I wanted to go to Vicksburg. She could furnish a vehicle and a horse and would willingly take me if my youngest brother, John Davis, could drive us. She protested, however, that it would not be possible to take Kate, as there was positively no room for another person."

Arriving at Big Black River Station
"We got off very early next morning. My brother, though quite young, was an experienced driver, for it was he who made the weekly trips to Burleigh, my uncle's plantation, for meal, corn and an occasional piece of fine beef or mutton when the family were there, but they were at that time refugees in Georgia, and that resource for us had been cut off. We reached Big Black station about the middle of the day. There was an important Union garrison at this point. We asked to see the commanding general who assured me most courteously that our horse, which need rest very much, should be cared for and that meantime we were welcome to the hospitality of his tent. Soon after our arrival there, he invited us to dine with him. To have accepted dinner from a Union General would have been of course rank disloyalty, perhaps even treason, to the Confederate cause. We replied with thanks that we had brought our lunch with us. We partook therefore of this meager and unappetizing cold meal, while odors of the most alluring nature from that hot dinner came floating in to us. We were sustained, however, by the thought of our patriotic devotion to the Confederacy."

Astonished by Women's Lies For Confederate Cause
"While we were waiting there, women from the surrounding county began to collect in the tent. They came in all kinds of vehicles and told us they had come for the weekly rations which General Grant allowed them. I had not heard before that the Union army was feeding families in the devastated area. When the General came in from his dinner he said to the women that he had just received orders from Vicksburg to cease giving rations, as General Grant had been informed that they were used to feed Confederate soldiers. The women thereupon cried out as with one voice that they gave no food to Confederate soldiers, they had to feed their own children and the children of the Negroes, besides the old people, they did not have enough to give away, etc., multiplying and emphasizing these asseverations. Hearing this and fully convinced that a great wrong was being done these poor women, I turned to the General and said: "Do you not believe them? I certainly do, and even if you do not, it would be more humane and more just to give them time to make other arrangements instead of wasting it to come here for nothing."

"The general then told them that on his own responsibility he would furnish them rations for that week only, but that they must not return as he could not possibly disobey orders. I wish I could remember the name of this dear good man. I was blinded then by prejudice nor could I have read the hearts of men. As soon as the General left us to give orders for the rations and was well out of hearing, the women again with one united voice exclaimed, "Of course we feed Confederate soldiers! We would share our last crust of bread with them!" My astonishment was too great for words, nor should I have known what words to use under the circumstances. It was a case for casuistry. Were they wrong, believing as they did in the sacredness of the Confederate cause? Still they lied with too much ease. I could not get over it. We, in Raymond, had never refused a Confederate soldier food nor a place at our table. These women then had acted right, but why couldn't they have said, "Can we refuse food to the hungry? It would be unchristian," or better still, when to speak is to confess, why not keep silent? Well I felt that I had gone surety for a falsehood, and I was aggrieved against the women. But more exciting events were to follow."

Meeting with General Sherman and Family
"General Sherman came over from Vicksburg to meet his wife and daughter who were arriving from Ohio. The two Generals sat and conversed while waiting for the Sherman ladies. General Sherman's "stock" cravat worried him. He took it off and was awkwardly trying to arrange it. I quite naturally held out my hand, took the cravat, stuck a pin into it and returned it to the General, but no sooner had I done this than the enormity of my conduct became apparent to me. It was indeed nothing short of high treason to the Confederate cause and I believed that if Mrs. McCowan betrayed me to the people of Raymond I should be ostracized, the finger of scorn leveled at me. I had henceforth, too, a dreadful secret which I feared to confess even to my most intimate friends, or to my family. Nor was the Sherman conversation of a nature to ally my scruples. He said he was persuading General Grant that the only way to end the war was to burn and devastate the country, for the men would not remain in the Southern army if they knew their wives and children were homeless and hungry. He was so intent on demonstrating to his tenderhearted host the correctness of his theory that he took no thought of the two silent women on whom his words fell like the doom of an impending fate."

Shocking News of the Capture of General John Morgan
The two Generals now went out to meet Mrs. And Miss Sherman. They soon returned with the ladies. Mrs. Sherman was eager to tell the latest news, and very important news it was. The two men listened with rapt attention. The Confederate General [John Hunt] Morgan who had attempted a raid into Ohio from which the South had expected great results, had been captured and he and his raiders put into the penitentiary. On hearing this tragic news, Mrs. McCowan and I began to weep silently and for fear of attracting attention we slowly moved around till our backs were pretty well turned to the group of talkers. We mopped the tears rolling down our cheeks, wrung our noses noiselessly, not daring to use our handkerchiefs otherwise and were very unhappy. "
(Editor's note: During one of Confederate General John Morgan's raids north of the Ohio in 1863, he was captured near New Lisbon and imprisoned in the Ohio State Penitentiary.)

Raymond Women Projected a Picture of Decaying Fortunes
"We were indeed a picture of the decaying fortunes of our poor Confederacy. Our hats and clothes looked as though they had come from a museum of ancient costumes. Mrs. Sherman and her daughter were dressed in the latest style, hats and traveling costumes in perfect taste and very "smart." The young lady was still very young, hardly fully grown. We would have gladly escaped to our vehicle but feared to call attention to our wretched selves. At length the Sherman party got off and we were free to depart."

Arriving in Vicksburg and Meeting General Grant
"When we reached Vicksburg, Mrs. McCowan and I parted, each going to our respective friends. My brother John Davis and I were received most hospitably by Mrs. Creasy and her mother, Mrs. Pryor whom we had often seen at our house in Raymond. Mrs. Creasy promised to take me next day to General Grant's headquarters. She said she knew one of his staff very well, Colonel [Harrison] Strong. This officer received us cordially as an old friend of Mrs. Creasy. We were taken immediately to General Grant. The General manifested, from the first moment of our interview, a decided inclination to make a joke of the whole business of the Arkansas move. Replying to his jests I informed him that we [friend Kate Nelson] were going to a corner of Arkansas where he and his armies could not possibly penetrate. He promptly retorted that he intended going right there. He was inexorable as to allowing any kind of firearms to my father and brother en route, but was not averse to the safe conduct through his lines."

Embarrassing John Rawlins, Grant's Chief of Staff
"After many jokes which I have forgotten for I was only intent on securing those wagons and mules, he asked me to follow him. At the end of the corridor he opened the door of a large room where a young man was at work at a desk. Before addressing him the General asked me in a low voice if I didn't think the young man was very handsome. I suppose he was really handsome, but what did that matter to me, to whom he was simply an enemy of the Confederacy? Not wishing to lose time I replied carelessly, "I don't think he is as handsome as Colonel Strong." Of course Colonel Strong's beauty, if he had any, had made no impression on me, but I said what I did because it seemed at the moment the best way of disposing of the question of Rawlins' beauty and of getting down to business, namely to wagons and mules. I had made my remark in a very low voice but now the General horrified me by calling out: "Rawlins, this young lady ways you are not as handsome as Strong." Poor Rawlins, thus exposed to criticism on his personal appearance before his superior office, got very red in the face. My fears led me to believe that I had decidedly jeopardized my transportation prospects and I was far more unhappy than Rawlins could possibly have been."

Accuses Sherman of Ruthlessness
"But the General ordered him to make out a paper entitling me to receive two wagons and four mules. When this precious document was safe in my hands my peace of mind was restored. In spite of deep seated prejudice I had to acknowledge to myself that General Grant was a very humane man, and I felt sure he could never commit a cruel act that he would inevitably err if err it were, on the side of clemency. In comparing the two men, General Grant and General Sherman, I felt and still feel sure that General Grant accomplished more by his kind heart than Sherman by his theory of ruthlessness. The latter [Sherman] took no thought of the soul of man which is not like that of any other of God's creatures. Men bend to force, but hatred smolders in their hearts. All this, however, is only stating in other words the old truth that Christianity is true statesmanship in dealing with a conquered foe, that evil cannot be overcome with evil."

A Meeting With General James McPherson
"That evening Mrs. Creasy took me to General McPherson's headquarters to get from him the order for two more wagons and four more mules for the Nelson family [Raymond]. Mrs. Creasy agreed with me that this was better than to ask General Grant for all the transportation. It occurred to me, however, afterwards, that one of these two Generals might well have mentioned my mission to the other, and then what would they have thought of a young woman who sought by deception to acquire more than a just proportion of the plunder of Southern plantations! This thought tortured me and I felt sure I could have confided to General Grant the whole story, and Mrs. Creasy was there to corroborate it, but it is my fate always to commit mistakes and repent of them when too late.

"When General McPherson heard my name, he said, "I read a letter from you to your brother when I was in charge of the prisoners on Johnson's Island." I said, "You should not have read a letter not intended for you." "But it was a duty enjoined on me to read all letters addressed to the prisoners. I should not have allowed that letter to go through according to rules, but I do so notwithstanding.

"I remembered the letter very well. It was a denunciation of the Union army and I am now willing to believe, both unjust and exaggerated, but my brother Fred told me after his release that it was a joy to his fellow prisoners when he read it to them. So, in spite of its faults it served the purpose of cheering those unfortunate victims who were expiating the folly and iniquity of mistreating Northern prisoners in Southern camps, the only stigma, I hope and believe, on the conduct of the war by the South."

McPherson Proves His Point
"General McPherson now took out some letters he had received from Southern ladies proving how lenient he had been in carrying out his instructions, how he had sympathized with them in their unmerited sufferings, privations, etc. He wanted me to read them. Now if there was one thing I dreaded more than another it was to be asked to read strange handwriting in public. I was therefore unwilling to make a spectacle of myself before General McPherson and Mrs. Creasy and got out of it as best I could be asking him questions. Did he favor turning our slaves against their masters? Of course he could not discuss such subjects, certainly not publicly. Why he cared in the least for my conversation is more than I can tell. I suppose that being in an enemy country he was deprived of ladies' society. I am very sure that if he had cultivated women to talk to he would never have listened to me who had been born and bred in a town smaller than any Northern village; but whenever Mrs. Creasy would propose to go he would beg her to stay just a little longer, till that good lady, who took not the slightest interest in our conversation, got out of all patience and dragged me off."

Embarrassed to Tears
"Next morning, after breakfast, entirely satisfied with my two orders for transportation to that Arkansian Arcadia, I found in the parlor a trashy novel which was absorbing my whole attention. Indeed I was weeping freely over it, for one of my unfortunate characteristics was the easy flow of tears. At this moment, Mrs. Creasy came hurriedly into the room calling out that General McPherson was on the front porch and I must come out instantly. No help in sight for me. I had to go on that porch, into the clear morning light which revealed pitilessly my swollen eyes. I was dressed, too, very badly, in a dress spun and woven in a small farmhouse near Raymond. Of course General McPherson was an enemy, but there was my wounded vanity whispering, "What a disillusion for the man who thought you worthy of his conversation and attentions yesterday evening." The General said, "I have ridden all over Vicksburg this morning but I can find no harness anywhere." I had never thought of harness, but now piqued and mortified, I said: "So your gift was not a real one. You knew I should not be able to get the wagons and mules to Raymond." Without appearing to notice this ungrateful and impertinent remark, the General said gravely, "I think I can give you some good advice. In the Confederate hospital there are some wounded men most anxious to leave. Give my order to them and if there is a harness still in Vicksburg they will find it." He mounded his horse and rode away."

"I believe he was killed soon afterwards in Tennessee, one of the noblest and most chivalrous men produced on either side of that war." (Editor's note: General McPherson was killed July 22, 1864 during the Battle of Atlanta.)

Leaving Vicksburg for Home
"My one desire at that moment was to leave Vicksburg and get home as soon as possible. Without asking Mrs. Creasy to accompany me I started off immediately to the Confederate Hospital. There I was brought before the superintendent, a Northern man. I told him my business in a few words. He looked at me with what appeared to be withering contempt and said: "At your age young ladies in the North stay home with their parents and leave business to men." I really did not need any more mortification that morning, and this blow overwhelmed me. I handed him two orders and said I was told to come there. I did not attempt to justify myself.

"When I reached home I found my uncle there who had persuaded my father to rent out his Raymond house and move to Burleigh, my uncle's plantation. The family were refugees and the slaves too had been taken away, so someone was need to protect the property. My father was greatly elated by my success in Vicksburg for the wagons and mules would enable him to cultivate the kitchen garden and a field at Burleigh with the salves who had not left us."

Postscript
Mary Dabney married Lt. William Lynch Ware, a Confederate officer wounded during the Siege of Vicksburg. Lt. Ware had been wounded in both legs and brought by ambulance to Raymond where he convalesced briefly in the Dabney home. They were married a short time later. Following the war the couple moved to Jackson where they lived for twelve years. Since William Ware passed away early in the marriage, Mary was left alone with children. She eventually moved to Europe where she traveled and lived for fourteen years before returning home. The final chapter in her book A New World Through Old Eyes is entitled Reminiscences. This chapter, relating memories of her family and home in Raymond, was written on the ocean voyage as she returned to America.


*Rare photograph of Mary Dabney Ware [left] with her younger sister Letitia Dabney Miller taken in the 1900s. Photo courtesy of Phillip Miller and Thomas Marshall Miller, grandson and great grandson.



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