Monday, May 13, 2019

At Rivoli

Not unlike other southern families living in the area surrounding Pendleton in Anderson County, South Carolina, diarist Clarissa Adger Bowen had connections with relatives living nearby. In a nearby Adger estate called Rivoli, after the close of the Civil War at the start of May in 1865, Clarissa's father, Robert Adger, was confronted by a number of men, under a captain and a lieutenant, who came riding up to his home. After first getting all the firearms on the property, they demanded he give them "the public treasury."

Puzzled, Mr. Adger asked what they meant by "the public treasury," to which he received the brusque reply: "I mean the treasury of the Confederate States which you have in your keeping."

Of course, denying such a thing would get a suspect nowhere, and the Adger man was informed that he had "$18,000,000 belonging to the Confederate Government" buried under his house.

From that point, the Captain began interrogations, asking first for Robert's name, and then, to that answer, adding yet another surprising response: "You have three brothers up here?" No, only two, but that answer didn't matter: "You are the man then. You need not deny it for I have positive information as to the exact spot."

What more could be said than, "Go and find it. My man will go and get his axe and the boys will come in and dig down as deep as you wish."

Unable to find any sign of such riches, the Captain and his sixty men searched the rest of the home, though assuring its owner that they weren't seeking "private property." Though they searched every "suspicious" looking container—one black trunk, once unlocked, revealed that its coveted cache was nothing more than "flannel petticoats"—the Union men finally rode away.

But not for long. Despite the captain's promise that they weren't searching for private property, a group of his men apparently broke away from their detail, returned to the Adger household, and demanded jewelry and other personal possessions. The entire episode was detailed in a letter written to Clarissa by her younger sister Minnie, and included in the Ashtabula book.

Apparently, that same type of story—well, perhaps other than those demands for the eighteen million missing dollars of the Confederate Treasury—was repeated all over the region. These cavalry men, under the command of General George Stoneman, were the ones who besmirched his reputation, but he, himself, was not actually in the area. The responsibility for command rested upon Bvt. Brigadier General William J. Palmer, who was in the area on May first, but was subsequently located, only a few days later, in Athens, Georgia.

On May 6, due to reports of the behavior of the soldiers under his command, Palmer wrote:
The reason I recommend that [the] brigades be immediately recalled to East Tennessee is because their officers for the most part have lost all control over their men. A large number of men and some of the officers devote themselves exclusively to pillaging and destroying property. General Brown appears to have given them carte blanche in South Carolina, and they are now so entirely destitute of discipline that it cannot be restored in the field.

That, however, would not erase the uproar occurring at the beginning of May in the countryside surrounding Pendleton, nor the worse impact that hit the nearby town of Anderson, where the Broyles family had settled after leaving Ashtabula.

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