Wednesday, May 15, 2019

What Spared Pendleton

In all the uproar in the chase to apprehend the escaping Confederate president Jefferson Davis and all the supposed gold in his retinue, the town of Anderson was hit pretty hard, as well as the countryside surrounding Pendleton. But the village itself, strangely, had been spared.

Once again, we can piece together the story behind that situation through memoirs and diaries kept of that May 1865 time of trouble. Dr. John B. Adger, the minister whose book, My Life and Times, we've already discussed, set the stage thus:
There came through our neighborhood a large number of Federal troops, said to be five thousand men.... A company of them came to [our village] and Mr. James Hunter, the intendant of our little town, walked out, having a sword by his side, and had a conference with their captain. What passed between them I never heard, but I believe they had got information that we had a body of troops in our village, and so turned off to the left, and moved towards Anderson Courthouse.

The thought of coming face to face with troops of the enemy, freshly following the official surrender and end of the Civil War, may not have been what the Union commanders wanted to have added to their record. Perhaps that is why they chose not to press such an encounter, though that seems a simplistic explanation.

While that became a positive outcome for the spared town of Pendleton—considering the plundering which occurred around the rest of the county following the federal troops' May 1 arrival—what turned out to be so exquisite about this turn of events was the discoveries, afterwards, of just what might have been preventing any unfortunate entanglements.

Returning to John Adger's explanation, we find that
These said troops of ours were a small body of very old men, and some fifty lads, one of them my son John, about fifteen years old, armed with some small and very inferior shotguns. They had been patrolling around Pendleton for some time, searching for deserters, and known as "Home Guards," under the command of Captain Jones.

Not an imposing force, to say the least. Even the Reverend had to comment, "How they happened to miss the Federals, when passing around Pendleton, I cannot tell."

Captain Jones' guard, however, also made it into the diary of Floride Clemson, the young woman we've discussed who, at that time, had returned to the south to visit her grandmother, Mrs. John C. Calhoun, in Pendleton. Her recollections of that May 1 episode, recounted in her published diary, A Rebel Came Home, bring us a more youthful perspective.
Well, the Yankees got to within a mile of here...but did not enter the village as they took it into their head that we had a large force here from hearing and seeing Jone's men wherever they went. In truth there were not more than 75 or 50 fighting men mostly boys of between 16 and 17, but they rushed about so wildly scouting and making a fuss, that the impression got abroad that there were over a thousand; but I will not laugh for under heaven, they saved us from the horrors of a sack such as fell to the lot of poor Anderson where over a thousand of Stoneman's raiders made their headquarters three or four days.



  1. The story is getting really lively. I had to stop midway in your post and go read John Adger's chapter about those times. Wow! Then to read Floride Clemson's account, which I had not seen yet, was just great. Thanks for pulling all this together.

    1. John Adger included a story which I did not share, but which just stopped me in my tracks. Incredible. Actually, there were two like that. Yeah, I ended up getting lost in his book, as well, Lisa.


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