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War Stories and School-Day Incidents For the Children by B. M. Zettler

War Stories and School-Day Incidents For the Children
B. M. Zettler

Chapter XI
Prisoners at Sherman’s Headquarters

The following unique Incident will, I'm sure, prove interesting to many of my readers, though it is given chiefly for the benefit of my own children. Before they were old enough to appreciate fully the inherent gentleness, sweet disposition, and rare good judgment of the devoted wife and mother from whom we often heard it, her lips were forever closed. But in the novel and trying position which the incident describes, they will see these qualities strikingly displayed, and will hold the story as a tribute to her memory.

When Sherman's army reached the vicinity of Savannah the cavalry captured, near the Ogeechee River bridge, the last outgoing train on what was then called the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad. On this train as passengers were Mr. R. R. Cuyler, the aged president of the Central Railroad and two young ladies, Miss Guyton and Miss Cotton, who had "refugeed" from Guyton on the Central Railroad to Savannah, and were now again "refugeeing" to friends and relatives in Thomasville and Americus, determined to keep out of Sherman's way. But behold! here they were made prisoners by a band of his cavalry. The coaches were at once set on fire. While they were burning, the ladies noticed another body of cavalry coming at a gallop and, thinking they were Confederates coming to their rescue, they clapped their hands with joy. But they were mistaken. Their supposed rescuers proved to be a company of Federals. Their captors offered no indignities, not even requiring President Cuyler to give up his watch.

Soon an army ambulance drove up, and Mr. Cuyler and the ladies were told to get into it to be taken to General Sherman's headquarters. Luckily for them they found Sherman occupying as his headquarters the residence of the Rev. Mr. King, who had taught school in Savannah at one time and one of the young ladies had been his pupil. He was at home, though his family had ''refugeed."

The feeling of relief to the ladies on meeting Mr. King can be readily imagined. They were at once notified, however, by a member of Sherman's staff that they would be held as prisoners for several days, at least, and Mr King would arrange for their accommodation. Nothing could be done but ''accept the situation," and they resolved to do so with as good grace as possible.

When meal time arrived the ladies were notified that their meals would be sent to their room, if they preferred, but that General Sherman would be glad to have them occupy seats at his military family table. Knowing it would give less trouble to adopt the latter course, they did so.

Now it was Sherman who, on expelling the people from Atlanta, had written the memorable words, "The women and children must be made to feel the hardships of war as well as the men in the army;" and his soldiers in their march through Georgia and South Carolina were allowed to illustrate the meaning of his words by pillaging private residences and carrying off whatever suited their needs or fancy; but on this occasion he acted the gentleman, and when the ladies entered the dining-room he courteously asked that one of them take the head of the table. Willing to "promote the agreeable," even as a prisoner in the enemy's hands, Miss Guyton, the elder of the ladies, with her old teacher on one side and her "sister in affliction" on the other, occupied the seat at the head of the table, and for a week "poured coffee" for Sherman and his staff.

It was often the case that the officers discussed at the table the progress of the siege of Savannah and the preparations for the capture of Fort McAllister. On the evening before the assault was made on the fort, Sherman invited General Hazen to take supper with him to discuss the matter. In answer to Sherman's question, "Are you quite sure, General, that you are ready?" Hazen replied, "Our long range guns are all in position and by nine o'clock the fort will be yours."

The fort was built to meet an attack or approach from the sea, and its heavy guns could not be shifted to respond to this bombardment from the rear. So it proved as General Hazen predicted. After a few well directed shots it surrendered. 

"But imagine my feelings," I often heard one of these lady Confederate prisoners say, "as we sat at our window that night and looked towards the fort! How 1 wished for wings that I might fly over to it and tell our boys what was coming."

As soon as the fort was captured the prisoners at headquarters were told they would be sent anywhere, within forty miles, that they wished to go. The next morning they left in an ambulance for Guyton, about thirtyfive miles across the country, and arrived that afternoon without further incident of interest.

The young lady who poured the coffee for Sherman, a prisoner at his headquarters in Mr. King's home on the Ogeechee, afterward became my wife, the mother of my children, Guyton M., Gordon B., and Hattie Guyton (Mrs. H. W. Dent). It was from her own lips I learned this unique and interesting story.

B. M. Zettler, War Stories and School-Day Incidents For the Children (New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1912), 162-166.


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