New Albany Civil War Letter
(as printed in the New Albany Gazette, Thursday, August 1st, 1968)

(This is the first in a series of articles dealing with the early history of New Albany and Union County compiled by the late Mrs. Jennie Bell Stephens Smith, long-time librarian and local historian of New Albany. Edited by Danny Murry.)

NOTE:  The following letter was found recently in a scrapbook of the late Mrs. Jennie Bell Stephens Smith, long-time librarian and local historian. It was written on July 29, 1864, at New Albany by Mrs. Asa Beach, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Jane Renfroe of Sandersville, Ga. The letter affected the lives of the New 
Albany citizenry during the Civil War.

Dear Father and Mother:

Martha wrote that you were having a great revival there. I am 
very glad to hear it and would be glad to be there and be good 
enough to join in with them all, but I am afraid if I am 
aggravated much more as I have been lately that I will become 
such a sinner that there will not be much chance for me to be 
saved. I have the same old tale to write. The Yankees have been 
here again for the first time since Febuary except for one company 
that came down here with a flag of truce to see General Forrest on 
business. They troubled no one of course. About three weeks ago they 
came again to our sorrow. There were fifteen thousand of them, five 
thousand calvary and ten thousand infantry. They went as far as 
Tupelo, had a fight with Lee and Forrest and then went back. There 
was a heavy loss on both sides.

I believe both sides claimed the victory. The Yanks had to go back 
sooner than they intended. They wanted to go further down but they 
were turned back. You have all no doubt seen an account of the raid 
in the papers, and know all about the fight. We heard the cannonading 
here very plain and thought they were fighting in Pontotoc. Had no 
idea it was as far as it was. They camped here on the Tallahatchie 
going and coming. It was a grand site to see them marching. They had 
at least one hundred and fifty drums and fifes and a brass band. Had 
music in the camp until very late, and marched off next morning with 
all the drums beating and the band playing. I would have enjoyed the 
music very much if it had been by our men, but it was anything else 
but pleasant coming from the source it did.

You have no idea what a string of people and wagons it was. They 
started here from camp at 4 o'clock in the morning, marching as 
fast as they could go, and did not get by until 10. They were 
commanded by Generals Smith and Greaerson. Smith's headquarters 
were at Bonds and Greaerson's at Hill's. I can't begin to tell you 
how they treated everybody. We heard they were coming before they 
got here, so the men all got out, of course, with their stock. Asa 
left Friday evening and they came in soon next morning, the front 
of them; the last ones did not get in until evening, there were so 
many. So you see we had them all day Saturday, all night until 10 
next morning.

My house, garden, yard, and orchard were thronged with them all the 
time, toting off corn and fodder, chickens, vegetables, cooking 
utensils, and everything they could find, searching my house over 
and over. I had a great many nice young chickens, just large enough 
to fry. They caught them as they all went down and when they came 
back took all the old hens and roosters. I now have five old hens. 
That is my amount of chickens. They took everything they could find 
that we had to eat, such as chickens, vegetables, shotes, and milk, 
but I had everything else hid even to my salt and lard and they did 
not happen to find it.

I believe I have told you whre my hiding place is, over the plazza. 
The planks are sawed out and placed in again, so it can't be 
discovered by looking at it. I went up to Mr. Hill's in the evening 
to see General Greaerson and asked him to place a guard at my house 
and told him that his men were searching all over my house and 
tearing up everything; told him  that they had already got all I 
had to eat; that I only asked protection that night for myself and 
children. He said, certainly, he would send me a guard and if I would 
treat him right he would protect me until they left. I treated him 
very kindly; made him a good pallet in the passage and we were not 
bothered with any other Yankees that night. They all left next 
morning so I thought I had gotten off tolerably well.

I talked with Greaerson about half an hour. He treated me very 
politely, but I don't think he has much feeling. You ought to 
have seen how grand he and his staff looked. There were five of 
them, he and his adjutant, surgeon and two others. They were 
sitting in Mrs. Hill's passage, dressed into fits, with three 
or four bottles of champagne and boxes of cigars setting around 
them. They asked me a great many questions about my husband. I 
told them the truth. Told them he had gone off to save his horse; 
that we had lost four horses by then. He says, "Has he a fine 
horse now?" I told him "yes" that he could not practice medicine 
on a sorry one; that good horses were scarce in this country now 
and he had got him a good one and went off to keep them from 
getting him. "Oh", he says, "he had as well stayed at home. We 
would not bother him nor his horse either." I told him that I 
knew better than that, that he had been taken once and his horses 
every time.

Well, after they were all gone Asa, Mr. Hill and all the runaways 
came home. Asa, Dr. Cullins Mitchell and White went on down to the 
battleground the day after the fight to help attend the wounded. 
Asa came home the next Saturday evening just a week after the Yankees 
were here, told us that the Yankees were on their way back. Camped at 
Ellistown that night. We were very much rejoiced that they went that 
way: had no idea that they would come back into this road. Thought 
that they would go straight on by the way of Ripley. Well, next 
morning Mr. Hill got on his horse, came down here and asked Asa 
to to go up and see Luly. They concluded they would then ride up 
towards Ellistown and see what the Yankees did up there the night 
before. They rode up to Mr. Hill's, hitched their horses at the gate, 
and went in to see the child. Asa put medicine in his pocket for her 
and left his saddlebags on his horse, something he very seldom ever 
does. They had not been there more than five minutes before the 
Yankees came tearing down the land from the Langstons right up to the 
Hill's house. Mr. Hill and Asa broke to run as hard as they could, 
Mrs. Hill screamed at them to stop; they would shoot them. Mr. Hill 
stopped they were so close by; but Asa put out and never looked back 
until he was out of hearing. Says he forgot he ever had the rheumatism. 
He went through the back yard and horse lot. The Yankees never saw him 
at all. He did not pretend to go towards his horse, that would have 
been going right to the Yankees. They were riding around the corner 
before they knew they were within ten miles of them. They rode up and 
took the horses first thing. The one that got Asa's horse says: "Well, 
I have got a fine horse," rode off, saddle bags and all. Asa says he 
would not mind loosing his saddle bags much had they had not had his 
surgical instruments in them. They can't be replaced.

Mr. Hill went back in the house and stayed until they left. That was 
not til next day. They did not bother him. They stayed here all that 
day, camped in the same place that night, and left next day. But they 
ruined us all before they left. I can't begin to tell you what they 
did to other people, it would take so long, but will try and tell you 
how they treated us. They came here thicker than they did before, if 
possible, all day working like ants, all over the house, upstairs and 
down, in every hole or corner, searching and peeping everywhere. 
Carried off every Irish potato, beet, onion, bean, and even took time 
to pick pans of beans. Took my pillow cases to put them in. Took 
towels, one new table cloth, all my knives but three, some of my 
dishes and every pan they could find. Took my shears, Asa's hatchet, 
tore my house all to pieces.

It would take me a week to mess it up like they did; pulled all our 
dirty clothes out of the closets and examined them; took all Asa's 
clothes they could find. Worked here all day. I reckon about two 
hundred had been upstairs, looked around and came down. I followed 
after them until I was nearly broken down, scared nearly to death 
for fear they would find my things that were hid, for I knew that 
was my all. Provisions, clothes, bed clothes, blankets and 
everything were in there. After awhile about a dozen of the infantry 
came in and upstairs they went. Went to searching all about, 
commenced looking under the floor. I had a few things hid under there. 
They commenced pulling them our, pulled out medicine, tobacco, cards 
and other little things, but they did not seem to want anything but 
the tobacco.

After awhile one rascal went up in the corner and in stooping to 
put his hand under the floor put it against the planks and thye 
slipped a little. He pulled them off and says: "By George, boys, 
here is the place!" They just ripped the planks off and in they went. 
One says "Run down and guard the door. Don't let another fellow come 
up. We'll divide the things amongst us." I had in there meat, flour, 
sugar, coffee, molasses, lard and salt, all of Asa's good clothes, 
Sarah's, mine and the children's. We all had new clothes in there 
that we had not worn, in a pillow case. They pulled them all out and 
looked at them. I stood over them and as they would pull out the 
shoes and clothes I would grab them and tell them they could not 
have them. But every time they came to anything of Asa's they would 
take it. Took his overcoat, a pair of new blue jeans pants, three 
pairs of summer pants, all his drawers except the ones he had on, 
one shirt, a new silk handkerchief. So you he is very near without 

They did not take any of my clothes except pocket handkerchiefs. 
They got them all and would have taken our dresses if we had not 
fought over them soon as they pulled them out. I would take from 
them and throw them to Sarah. She would sit down on them until she 
had a large pile under her. She said she would fight over them a 
long time before they got them. They took two of her dresses that 
were left hanging in her room, and Melia's white embroidered dress. 
It was hanging in one of Sara's. They were taken while we were 
upstairs fighting over the others. Every room was full at once. 
We don't know who took them. Could not watch them all. They were 
old dresses of Sarah's. She hid all but her best ones, her pink 
flounce and dark striped skirt. I hate their taking Melia's very 
much because it came from where it did. I gave Sarah my purple 
flounce muslin in the place of the one she lost. I have not had 
it on in three summers. They took one of my best quilts and three 
nice blankets, but I stole one of them from him after he got it. 
He laid it down by him to divide the provisions. I slipped up 
behind him and got it. There was such a confusion amongst them he 
never discovered it.

They left me nothing to eat at all, took every solitary thing I had 
except one jar of lard and my salt. There was not even a grain of 
corn on the place to make hominy after they were gone and we had 
enough of everything to last us until Christmas. I hated them taking 
my chickens and groceries worse than anything else. I knew we could 
get meat and bread as soon as they left but the other things cannot 
be replaced without sending to Memphis, and we have no cotton. We 
were living well but we will have to live on meat and bread after 
this and we may not be able to get that all the time.

They killed all of Asa's hogs for next year's meat but we happened 
to save our cows. They killed nearly everybody's cows and calves 
around here but ours. We have two good cows with young calves. 
They happened not to come up until very late. We turned them in 
the yard and kept them there. My calves were in the orchard. They 
started to shoot them several times but I ran after them and begged 
them not to kill them, told them they had taken everything I had to 
eat but if they would leave the calves that we could live on milk 
and bread.

Mr. Bond milked fifteen cows. They killed every cow and calve he 
had. He now has no cows at all. They nearly ruined him, burned 
forty bags of cotten and and killed all his stock, took everything 
he had in the house to eat and every negro he had went with them. 
Mrs. Bond has all her work to do. They treated Mr. Hill in the 
same manner, took and killed nearly everything he had. They had a 
little provision hid that they did not find.

The Yankees took a great deal from Mr. Flourney as well as everybody 
else. Mr. Hill's negroes hitched up his oxen and cart and went off 
in the day, right before their eyes. The Yankees were all there and 
helped them off. The Yankees got three guns  under our house. I 
though we were gone up as the saying is when they hauled them out. 
But they did not do any worse than they were doing before. One 
fellow asked Kitsy for some fire, said he wanted to burn that 
damned old house down. There was no fire on the place, had nothing 
to cook and let the fires go out. There were a great many families 
left as we were, without a mouthful to eat. They took bedclothes 
and wearing clothes everywhere they went. Some ladies I have seen 
say they did not leave them a rag of clothing except what they had 
on. They treated Poss King mighty bad, took all she had to wear, 
nearly all of her bed clothes, tore up the well, threw  the windlass 
and her wash pot and some other things into the well, carried off 
the new quilt that belonged to Lizzie's little bed. One man commenced 
to ripping open Mary's bed, but another stopped him. Poss has to tote 
water from here in a wash bowl. They took all of her buckets and 
cooking utensils. I expect she has written to Mary about it.

Well, I will quit writing about the Yankees. I know you are all tired 
of it. I have not told you half that I could tell you. I must tell 
you about their finding Mr. Bell's money. Mrs. Bell heard they were 
coming and went and buried the money in a corner of a fence. Not a 
living soul knew where she had put it. They went there and dug it 
up. They had $25 in gold, $15 in greenbacks, and $100 confederate. 
I must tell you of another thing, too, how bad we were scared after 
the Yankees had been gone about five days. The news came here they 
and sent all the negroes',  wagons on to Memphis and they were coming 
back, burning every house they passed, turning the people out of 
doors. We heard one evening that they would be here next morning and 
burn us out, heard it from several different sources. Everybody went 
to work bundling up their clothes, to try to save some. We tied up a 
bundled piece to carry off when they set the house on fire. Asa put 
on his best clothes that were left, took his account books and left. 
You would have laughed to see us next morning. Sarah, Mary Joines, 
myself and Kitsy all had a string of clothes tied under our hoops. 
Mr. Flournoy worked all night carrying things off into the woods. 
They did not come back through. It was all false.

Mr. Pruitt is dead; died last week. His wife has gone to Mr. 
Duncan's to live. He only left her a thousand dollars. She said 
she had no interest here and would not stay. We have had company 
here a week and will have all this week--two young men. They are 
couriers. A company of scouts have gone up near Memphis and 
established  a line of couriers every ten miles back to Tupelo. 
This is one of the posts. They carry dispatches from one post to 
the other. These who are here are very nice young men. I tell Sarah 
I think she has fallen in love with one of them. They are having a 
very nice time.

You must all write to me as soon as you get this. I would have 
written sooner but have not had enough energy to write a letter 
since the Yankees left until now. They turned over my molasses, 
upstairs, spilled it all over the house, upstairs and down, and I 
did not have it scoured up in a week. So you see I did not care 
much for anything. I have got over that now. We are all in good 
spirits again. Asa rides one of Mr. Hill's mules. He has no use 
for them now, his negroes are all gone. Asa has a good horse though, 
when his foot gets well; one Sarah and I captured from the Yanks. 
His foot was so sore he could not travel so, as soon as they left, 
we went into their camps and got him. The pickets left him. They 
camped right here on the side of the road. The horse is in good 
order. He has two cartridge boxes fastened together for saddle bags.
This leaves us all well; children are getting along well and 
growing fast. Clara's school is broken up, the teacher can't get 
board. All send love to you.

Your affectionate daughter,
E.J. Beach

P.S. Sam Bell was badly wounded in the fight down here. Asa thinks 
he will die.

This  newspaper article was contributed by Joe Mercer of Memphis, Tennessee. 
Joe has made other contributions to other MsGenWeb sites and they are greatly  appreciated.
 It's folks like him that keep us going. Thanks Joe! This is one of the most fascinating items that I've read recently. 

Melissa McCoy-Bell

Union County MSGenWeb Coordinator

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