Contributed by Gigimo
Description: Looking Backward. Suffering and Privation in Texas County and Elsewhere During Civil War Times - Some Reminiscences.Date: July 22 1920
Newspaper published in: Houston, MO
Yes, they had hard times in Texas county during the Civil War. I was a very small child then, but I can remember many things that thoroughly convince me that only those who had actual experience of such times know anything about the privations the people suffered. Often they were compelled to resort to substitutes for the commonest necessaries of life. And it was even worse, if possible, down South "in Dixie," where salt was one of the necessaries especially hard to get.
My friend and brother, T. B. LARIMORE, who was little more than half grown when the war broke out, says:
"In 1863 I dug up the ground in smokehouses, put the dirt into hoppers and drained water through it as we do to get lye from ashes, and then boiled down the water to make salt. Such salt was ready sale at $1 to $5 per pound; indeed, it was almost impossible to get it at any price. I got a small portion of the salt I made for my labor in making it, but I never got enough to have any to sell. Such salt was as dark as the darkest brown sugar and dirty enough for all practical purposes. No smokehouse in all that part of Dixie escaped the hopper."
F. D. SRYGLEY says: "There were no stores in that part of Dixie and nobody had any "store clothes," unless it was an article now and then that had been bought before the war. There was but one store hat in all that part of the country. It was hopelessly disfigured in shape and seriously damaged in color, but it distinguished the owner and helped to make him the envied nabob of the whole community!"
I can remember well when the hats worn by men and women, and children, too, were platted by hand out of oats straw or wheat straw, and yet they talked about as much then as now about hats in style and hats out of style. It never occurred to them as anything ridiculous to plat two hats out of the straw of the same sheaf of oats and call one a nice hat for Sunday wear and consider the other a coarse hat for every day wear.
I smile when I think how we used tea made of parched rye, wheat, corn meal, acorns, etc., as substitutes for coffee. There was no coffee in the country during the last days of the war, and if there had been any, the people would not have had any money to buy it - see?
F. D. SRYGLEY also says (a man we will call D-- lived near him during the war): "Eccentric, ridiculous and good humored, he was known throughout the country as an original character. As times went from bad to worse, he tried various experiments to discover satisfactory substitutes for such articles as could not be obtained. He had a large family, and at times could get neither meat, salt, breadstuff, lard nor coffee (for the soldiers, bushwhackers and robbers kept his premises cleaned of everything that was fit to eat.) His ingenuity was put to the test to get up a mess of pottage for a gang of children in such straightened circumstances. He had a never-failing spring of pure water near which grew some large beech trees, and he boiled a pot of young beech leaves in clear spring water, by way of experiment, as a salad for the children. It was amusing to hear him say, in after years, with many antic gestures and ridiculous grimaces: "It beat nothin' bad; but it needed salt and seasonin' to give it strength!" SRYGLEY also said that the few old men left in the South, because unfit for service, spent most of their time explaining to each other how the Great war ought to be managed. When times came to the hardest, these old decrepits were all in favor of an aggressive campaign. They did not often use words in the sense Webster gives them, but they felt that a crisis had arisen which could be successfully met by desperate means oly, and they expressed themselves in the harshest sounding words they could command without regard to the exact meaning of such words. Old Mr. W---, who was an authority among them on military tactics and army maneuvers, said: "General LEE'S got ter git across the Shenander river, make a big raid through the North and order his men to commit suicide as they go, or the Southern Confederacy's busted and Dixie's gone to Halifax, by hek!" Of course he thought suicide meant destruction and dire calamity to the enemy.
But to appreciate the great disadvantages under which the southern people labored during the war, it should be remembered that there were no manufactories of any kind in the South. Everything had to be made by hand. The South made no buttons, no nails, no sewing needles, no pins, no sewing thread, no knives and forks, no cups and saucers, no tumblers or goblets, no dishes of any kind, no matches, no knitting needles, no pens or pencils, no writing paper, no axes, saws, hatchets, augers, chisels, hammers, no pocket knives, no tin buckets, no indigo or copperas, no blue-stone, no quinine, nor medicine of any kind, no drawing chains. These and hundreds of other things of common use were not to be obtained at all in many placed during the war. He also says: "When our fire went out, we had to borrow from those who had it. As substitutes for pins, the women used thorns; and for hair pins, the large thorns from locust trees. Buttons for the heavier clothing were made of leather and the smaller buttons of thread. Sewing thread was spun by hand and the few needles in the country were those only that were bought before the war. There were but few of them in each neighborhood and each one was kept going night and day. The time of a needle in any family was limited and the breaking of one was lamented as a public calamity. Tumblers were made from bottles. The process was to pass a stout cord around the bottle and see-saw it till the friction produced a hot ring, and then dash cold water on it. This caused the bottle to break smoothly where the cord was sawed, making a fair substitute for a tumbler. Such table furniture had the advantage of variety, as hardly any two tumblers were of the same size or color."
Brother LARIMORE writes, in part, as follows: "Women and children worked as slaves and lived in constant dread of robbers, murderers - the knife and torch - anxious for news (from the war), but always afraid to hear it. Southern women who had spent all their antebellum days in ease, affluence and luxury, followed the plow, fed hogs, hid their bread and meat in cellar, loft and field, spun and wove their clothing, used thorns for hair pins, made hats of shucks and straw, made coffee of corn, carried corn to mill, hid their horses in the brush - in short, sun-burnt and hard-handed, lived, labored and looked like squaws of the forest - dragged down by cruel war, but bravely battling against hard times, loving God and serving their generation and giving their lives for those they loved. Mrs. L. says she and her sisters, though blessed with competency before the war, took in the whole list of hard work, except cutting grain with a cradle - they drew the line at the reap hook - sickle. They plowed, grubbed, made, gathered and hit the crops, made rails, built fence, etc. They dug a deep hole, in dead of night, in their smoke house, carried off the surplus dirt and hit it, buried their meat in that hole in a box, covered up the place nicely, sprinkled ashes over the place, to conceal all traces of the grove, and when absolutely necessary, to prevent starvation, they would at midnight's solemn hour, while some of them stood picket, resurrect some of the meat and again close the grave with previous care. All this and much more, when any moment the torch might be applied to their hard-earned humble home."
Thus you can see some of the hardships endured by the women and children in the South during the Civil war, and the suffering around Licking, Texas county, Missouri, was in many respects like it. Our people murmur and complain of the hard times now, but if they only knew it, they are living "in clover." They are making more money and spending more money now than at any other time in the world's history.
J. W. ATKISSON
St. Louis, Mo.