Tuesday, May 14, 2019

All that Gold — and the "Banju" too

They took poor Grandmother, locked her up, showed her a rope and warned her to give up the gold.

While the episodes of Union cavalry showing up, after the Civil War was declared over, to terrorize the residents of the countryside around Anderson County on May 1, 1865, varied depending on the location, the residents outside the town of Pendleton certainly didn't have it as hard as did those living in the town of Anderson.

In a letter written by Caroline Ravenel, a war refugee staying at a home in Anderson, she mentioned the nerve-wracking detail above—particularly disconcerting, considering "Grandmother" didn't have any gold to give. This letter was printed in a volume called Mason Smith Family Letters, but there were several other such accounts of that day around Anderson, including one in which a man, badly mistreated, gave up the gold he had been safekeeping for someone else, only to be pestered by a late-arriving second set of soldiers, who, thankfully, settled for taking his "banju."

Anderson itself, if you remember, was where my third great-grandparents Ozey and Sarah Taliaferro Broyles had moved their family in 1851 after those fourteen idyllic years residing at Ashtabula. Now, at the close of the war, they were living right in the path of oncoming Union soldiers on a mission to intercept the supposedly massive stash of gold from the Confederate Treasury.

By that time, since Dr. Ozey R. Broyles' son Charles had been serving in the Confederate Army, his wife and family were also refugees, living on a farm close to the railroad near Anderson. During the day, Charles' children went into the town of Anderson to attend school, as did many other refugees from Charleston and other cities.

If the refugees in Anderson had heard the news of General Lee's surrender by that point in May—after all, news from up north traveled rather slowly back then—I can't tell. But to hear Charles' daughter Laura Broyles retell the story in some notes, years later for the Ashtabula book, it was easy to see this was a memory firmly implanted in that schoolgirl's mind.

As she recalled,
Late one afternoon the news came like wildfire that the Yankees by the thousands were marching into Anderson. We were all terrified and clung to our mother.

With Charles Broyles still away on military service, it was twelve year old Laura, her younger sister, and their three brothers, who were staying with their mother on Dr. Broyles' farm along the railroad track outside town. Laura continued,
Just about sunset the passenger train came by and at the same time this long line of bluecoats came galloping along the highway in full sight of our house. They began firing into the train and it stopped. They took all the money and watches of passengers and left them to get to Anderson as best they could.

That was not the end of it. The rampage continued, as the soldiers continued on to Anderson, itself. There, they took ammunition, jewelry, watches, and any other valuables from the homes in town, and
in a day or two they went into all the country around Anderson in groups of fifteen or twenty and took everything they could find. They came to our house, and pulled open every dresser drawer and took whatever they wanted, while my mother stood quietly by and could do nothing.

Still, for all these stories—and the indelible imprint they left on the young minds of the children who witnessed this sudden twist of fate in Anderson—the nearby town of Pendleton, itself, seemed to have been left unscathed. While that detail may have seemed peculiar, when everyone compared notes afterwards, it seems there may have been an unexpected reason for the safe haven the residents of Pendleton may have been granted.


  1. I saw yet another account in a letter on page 397 of "The Leverett Letters." For the sake of brevity, I'll skip the names and just give a quote: "(our relative) was captured near Anderson (while on a preaching trip) - & horribly treated by three Michiganders. They demanded his silver & gold, & being told he had none, one searched him while another held a pistol to his head...The main body had gone on & there was no sort of protection but God's against these lagging ruffians." There is more of the same thing in the letter, describing Anderson as undefended against "the Yankee fury."

    From what I saw in old newspapers, the commanding officers had moved on, and some undisciplined troops acted badly in their search for loot. It certainly frightened the locals.

    1. Now that's another resource I'd like to check out, Lisa: The Leverett Letters, though it looks like it will have to be through inter-library loan. Looks pricey for the hardcover.

  2. I never learned about these kinds of events in my history classes.

    1. Kathy, neither had I, though I don't suppose I'd have recalled if it were mentioned. I was not a very astute history student during my school years.


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