Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Vicksburg Cane Story

Here is another one from the Civil War era, a fascinating story of a piece of history. I only wish I knew were this cane is today. And also if we only had more info on Mrs. Sloan from Ashland. This story was written in 1868 in reference to supporting President U.S. Grant. Mrs Sloan was very interesting having served as a nurse at Vicksburg and post Gettysburg. What a great story her life would make.

The Vicksburg Cane Story

By Mrs. Mary Sloan

Vicksburg July 4, 1863

My Friends;-
You have done your duty, and now I propose to do mine. You of St. Clair have done it far better than I can hope to do; yet a short history of the inanimate stick of wood, now before you, will give you a few glances backward, over the rough road we have been traveling for the last few years, and I hope proves interesting.
Outside the fortifications of Vicksburg, the Union Army lay, Hundreds were daily sickening and dying; the intense heat, bad water, and hard labor, had well nigh proved too much for human nature. All looked sad and disheartening. Though but little was said, the bravest felt that our noble army was destined to fade away, ere the great work before them should be accomplished.
Never dawned a sadder morning than that of the memorable fourth of July, 1863; judge then of the wonderful reaction when the glorious tidings spread throughout our lines that Vicksburg had surrendered, and that at 12m the line of march would be formed, to go in an posses the city.
There were no stragglers that day, no shirkers from duty. The sick rose from their beds, the wounded dragged their helpless limbs; all who possibly could, joined in that march, and three poor boys, alas! Too weak for the undertaking, lay down by the roadside and died. One of them as his comrades stooped to raise him said, “go on Bill, don’t trouble about me; I am near enough; I can die here; tell mother I almost got into that drastic old city.” Returning to camp the next day, his body was found a half mile nearer the city, than were he had fallen, his hands torn and bloody, from his efforts to drag his weary body over the stony road, as near as possible to the conquered spot. That soldier was a native of northern Pennsylvania.
I arrived in the city; the Army was filed in order around the courthouse, where the Confederate flag still floated. It was the work of but a few moments to remove it, and throw to the breeze our glorious banner, amid shouts that well befitted the occasion.
By request of General Grant, “Rally round the flag” was sung. Never again do I expect to witness so affecting a scene. Many wept, and General Grant, the man who some think has no feeling, sat upon his horse like a statue, the tears coursing down his sun burned cheeks.

The city under the Union flag;
The first thing done was to open the prison doors. General Grant on foot, led the procession through the streets, and entered the prison just behind the flag.
To describe this wretched abode is beyond my power. The ultimathule of rags, filth, starvation and misery, certainly was reached. Over one hundred and fifty Union soldiers were shut up here, who for the first time in many months beheld the flag under which they had fought.
You are all familiar with the adage, “Blessings brighten as they pass away.” And who here that has lain for months in a southern prison but remembers his feelings when he again upheld his country’s flag. One brave old man almost dying, said, “I can’t see; bring me the flag; let me feel it once more,” and passing his hands over its folds, pressed it to his lips, and cried out, “beautiful flag, too late, too late, I have starved to death for you; you ain’t bread; God forgive the rebs; for I can’t” and closing his arms around it, his light on earth went out forever.
Someone said, “General Grant will you speak?” “No,” he replied, “the sight of my eyes makes my heart sick; words are of no use here. God forgive the rebels for I cannot.”
The entire army were then relieved from duty for twenty-four hours, a longer respite than they had before known since the war began, and oh, the touching, sickening, and ludicrous sights, that met our eyes. Union and confederate soldiers walked the streets, arm – in –arm, chewing from the Union cud, (of tobacco) and eating Union rations, for the rebs had neither. Some of our officers dined with Confederate Officers, on mule meat. Women and children half frightened to death were found hidden in caves were they had taken refuge for the fury of the storm of battle.
After sunset a party of officers and ladies rode out to view the fortifications and on our return I cut a branch from the tree, under whose shade Generals Grant and Pemberton arranged the terms of surrender. I soon began to feel like the man who drew an elephant and did not know what to do with it. In the army it was almost an impossibility to lay anything down, and ever find it again, so how was I to keep my stick, when I was constantly on the go?
While walking along the street the next morning, I was accosted by an old Negro woman, with “say, honey, don’t you long to Ancle Abe?” “I live in the North, “I replied. “Well then, you jis take this little nig along with you, “at the same time dragging from behind her, a grinning, half naked little boy about ten years of age. “ His mamma gone to Chicago last winter, and sent word back to our misea, that she had found a good home, and wanted her boy. Old miss was very cross, but I kept watch ever since. Now you take de chile, be good to him, and de Lord bress you both and bring you to glory.” She was gone, and I left with a much greater responsibility upon my hands than a stick of wood.
Resolving that I must care for a Negro, he should help me care for my stick. I took him to the Soldiers Home, just opened, and placed him in care of an old Negro woman, employed in the kitchen; I gave my stick into his charge, telling him if he would take good care of it he should get to his mother. Within twenty-four hours the news reached me that Lee was in Pennsylvania, had destroyed several cities, and was sending an army into the coal region, to set fire to the coal mines. That touched a tender spot. Home, parents, and children were in Schuylkill County. I forgot my country, my duty, my Negro, and my cane, went on the first boat going North, and not until I reached Pittsburg, was I assured of the glorious victory at Gettysburg, and the perfect safety of those dear to me. I spent two weeks nursing in an old barn t Gettysburg, visited my children, and returned in September to Vicksburg. I had given up all hope of ever seeing either Negro or stick again, but as I entered the soldiers home, I was saluted with, “Here’s my miss; I knot’s you’d come for me; I’se done kept de stick; I’se slept with it every night,” and sure enough it was my little nig., and safely stowed away in his bed in one corner of the great kitchen, I found my stick, with my name cut upon the bark, just as I had left it. Without further delay I expressed it to my father, with a letter charging him that in the event of my death, to see that it was appropriated to help General Grant walk into the White House. My little Negro I succeeded in getting to his mother, and under her care he bide fair to become an educated and useful citizen.
And now my friends, we come to the moral of this long story, viz; that the cane. I now present to you and the Negro are inseparably united. It is through the faithfulness of a little Negro child that I have been enabled to present to you this interesting memento of one of the greatest conquests of our recent struggle.
Let us then remember that the Negro has done what he could to establish Peace and Liberty upon the American continent, and let us see to it, that he receives justice and sympathy from our hands.
My only request in regard to the cane is, that it be handed down from generation to generation, through the family into which possession it may come, as the property of the son’s oldest son, or daughter’s eldest son, or brothers eldest son.

Mary J. Sloan

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