Friday, May 10, 2019

After the Armistice

To piece together the story of what happened in Anderson County, South Carolina, that tumultuous May 1, 1865, the perspective is best gained by relying on multiple accounts. Apparently, at least one local resident of the area was aware of where the escaping Jefferson Davis had passed that night. Dr. John B. Adger, local minister and uncle of Clarissa Adger Bowen whose diary represents the main portion of the Ashtabula book I've referred to, prepared his own written version of the episode in his memoir, My Life and Times.
When President Davis and his Cabinet found it necessary to quit Richmond, their course carried them through the Piedmont portion of South Carolina, but they did not come by Pendleton. One night they lodged at Abbeville with my friend, Mr. Thomas C. Perrin, in that spacious and magnificent mansion which was shortly afterwards destroyed by fire.

That, however, did not prevent the amassing of Federal troops in Anderson County in anticipation of the Confederate cabinet's supposed arrival in that area. Clarissa made notes of one experience of her husband, Orsamus Allan Bowen—whom she referred to in her diary simply as "O"—when meeting up with the Union officer and his three men approaching their property at Ashtabula that May 1, he asked, "What does this mean?"
"We are Yankees," was the reply. "Are you the owner of this place?"
"I am and to what command do you belong?"
"To Stoneman's."
"And this is your way of observing the armistice?" O. demanded.

The Union men proceeded to the Ashtabula stables after telling Bowen that "we are only retaliating" for a Tennessee incident, and made off with some of their horses. Bowen, meanwhile, ran inside, warning his wife and family to take refuge in Clarissa's room. Afterwards, she reflected that "we had but a short time to quiet ourselves and prepare for our trial." Sure enough, more soldiers returned, stealing what they could find—jewelry, firearms, and money, though items of clothing and food "were not despised."

In the aftermath, as Clarissa recognized,
We are yet in too much confusion to know what is taken and what is left. Only thank God, no blood was shed and O. was not taken prisoner. It was all as sudden as a clap of thunder—all over in three hours time.... Tonight we are quiet but Oh, so worn out and exhausted and so intensely anxious for the dear ones at Rivoli [her family members living in a nearby residence].

That was her experience, living in the country outside the town of Pendleton. As we'll soon see, the stories were much the same—if not worse—at other homes in the area, including Rivoli, the residence of her parents and younger siblings.


  1. Surely a terrifying experience.

    1. Kathy, these are some of the milder recorded experiences! The uncertainty of immediate outcomes must have been difficult, as word spread of their neighbors' experiences.

  2. I can only imagine the terror they must have felt :(

    1. Yes, it must have been so hard--and so unexpected!


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