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The unpublished Civil War era remembrances of Ellen Denham -- Georgia


The unpublished Civil War era remembrances of Ellen Denham the ten year old daughter of James Denham (James Denham was the owner of Denhamville Plantation in Putnam county Ga. , the plantation complex consisted of a grist mill, a sawmill, a comissary weaving and spinning and sewing facilities, houses for 200 factory employees, and a tanyard and leather factory. The leather factory was converted at the beginning of the war to make brogan shoes, boots, saddles, bridles and harnesses for the Confederacy.)
" Now Papa had extensive land holdings in Putnam county and other counties too, " ellen told her granddaughter in the early 1900's, " We lived on a large plantation east of Eatonton, and on this property we also had a factory for leather goods, making shoes, saddles, harnesses, etc. Throughout the war the entire putput of the Denham factory was sent to aid the Army of the Confederacy. At one time the factory handled 4,000 hides a day and made 60 pair of shoes as well as other articles....there was never any doubt in Papa's mind that the factory, plantation and even his family would be in danger if Federal troop pentetrated south of Atlanta". "Then the message came," Ellen recorded, "and I'll never forget Moma's face when she heard that Sherman was burning Atlanta, was ready to march across Georgia t the sea, and could be in Eatonton by tomorrow, or the next day. Word had gone out that the Denham factory would be destroyed and Papa and maybe Uncle Joe too, would be sent North in Chains... our people were crying and pleading to go with us to South Georgia. Silver and other valuables were packed to be buried in secure places. All the available food was put into hampers. Clothes were packed helter-skelter. Quilts and blankets were stuffed into sacks." Under the cover of darkness Ellen, her parents, brothers, sisters and a loyal servant named Epsie, loaded into a caravan of wagons and carriages for the arduous evacuation to distant Mitchell county in southwest Ga. Sherman's "bummers"-- scavengers and foragers who would ransack the countryside for food and valuables-- were to be feared. Indeed, at one point Ellen's mother fired a pistol at one of menacing intruder.
After delivering his family to safety, James Denham returned to his beloved Putnam county to check on his factory. He found the familiar brick and mortar smokestack silhouetted agains the red western sky, the stench of burning hides filled the air and the ruins of out buildings were still smoking. This devastation was the handiwork of the 20th Corps of the Union army. The only factory structure to survive the conflagaration was the 100 foot tall, twleve foot in diameter brick chimney topped by a metal fish weathervane.
"Although the house had not been burned, it had been terribly abused", remembered Ellen, "Windows were shot out. Doors had been chopped up for kindling. Animals had been quartered in the parlor. all the carpets were ruined and most of them cut to shreds. All the beautiful china and crystal had b een wantonly broken to bits and strewn about. The furniture had been chopped up. Mama's beautiful rosewood piano was in the barnyard where it had been used to feed and water animals. Everything valuable that had been buried had been found, dug up and taken away... All the privies had been turned over and some of them burned. All the wells were filled with garbage and human and animal offal."

Ellen Denham's reminiscences also include an intersting note about the family's slaves, which she referred to as "our people". After many of the slaves departed the plantation, Ellen recalled, they later " escaped the army of liberation that had rounded them up" and "returned as practically skeletons"

Sources:
1.Georgia Backwoods magazine summer 2011. "Shermans Destruction of Denhamville" Hank Segars
2."Oconee River Tales to Tell" by Katherine Bowman Walters, Published by the Eatonton-Putman county Historical Society, 1995....
3."Remembering the Stores of Ellen Taylor Denham Cason" as comoplied by her granddaughter, Roberta F. Cason Cox (1982) with an introduction and notes by Benjamin Taylor Beas;ey (2008) Unpublished
4.The Eatonton Messenger, editions of April 25 and May 2, 1991 August 16 2007
"On the Plantation: A Story of a Georgia Boys Adventures During the War" first published in 1892 in numerous reprinted editions to include the University of Georgia Press (1980)

(Submitted by Tom Wise)



Mrs. Mary S. Mallard in Her Journal [1864, Liberty County, Georgia]

“Monday, December 19th: Squads of Yankees came all day, so that the servants scarcely had a moment to do anything for us out of the house. The women, finding it unsafe for them to be out of the house at all, would run in and conceal themselves in our dwelling. The few remaining chickens and some sheep were killed. These men were so outrageous at the Negro houses that the Negro men were obliged to stay at their houses for the protection of their wives; and in some instances, they rescued them from the hands of these infamous creatures.

Tuesday, December 20th. A squad of Yankees came soon after breakfast. Hearing there was one yoke of oxen left, they rode into the pasture and drove them up…needing a chain…they went to the well and took it from the well bucket. Mother went out and entreated them not to take it from the well, as it was our means of getting water. They replied: “You have no right to have even wood or water,” and immediately took it away.

Wednesday, December 21st: 10 A.M. Six of Kilpatrick’s cavalry rode up, one of them mounted on Mrs. Mallard’s valuable gray named Jim. They looked into the dairy and empty smokehouse, every lock having been broken and doors wide open day and night. They searched the servants’
houses; then the thundered at the door of the dwelling. Mother opened it, when one of them presented a pistol to her breast and demanded why she dared keep her house closed, and that “he be damned if he would not come into it.”

She replied, “I prefer to keep my house closed because we are a helpless and defenseless family of women and children.” He replied, “I’ll be damned if I don’t just take what I want. Some of the men got wine here, and we must have some.” She told them her house had been four times searched in every part, and everything taken from it. And recognizing one who had been of the party that had robbed us, she said: “You know my meal and everything has been taken.”

He said, “We left you a sack of meal and that rice.”

Mother said, “You left us some rice; but out of twelve bushels of meal you poured out a quart or so upon the floor -- as you said, to keep us from starving.”

Upon one occasion one of the men as he sat on the bench in the piazza had his coat buttoned top and bottom, and inside we could plainly see a long row of stolen breast jewelry -- gallant trophies, won from defenseless women and children at the South to adorn the persons of their mothers, wives, sisters, and friends in Yankeeland!”

(The War the Women Lived, Walter Sullivan, J.S. Sanders & Company, 1995,
pp. 238-239)






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