Civil War

On the other side of the bridge, Companies I and K turned left. After a few hundred yards, they came upon the gate of a large plantation, thus far undisturbed by the war. Captain McAnally and Captain Kelly, who had replaced Captain McConvey, stepped onto the mansion’s wide porch, accompanied by two sergeants, and banged at the door. They drew their pistols and poised them before their faces. Behind a massive cherry door appeared a middle-aged mistress of stately bearing, average height, and robust build. Her well-groomed brown hair set off a long, flowing, pleated dress, which almost hid two female black servants who were standing behind her. With a forced smile, she addressed the soldiers, “Gentlemen, I beg you. We all are women here. Our men are gone to war.”

Captain McAnally lowered his weapon, and smiling and bowing slightly, said, “Ma’am. We regret this unfortunate intrusion, but have no other recourse to feed our men.”

The woman maintained her composure and answered with grace. “I am sorry, sir, for your men.”

McAnally stroked his unshaven chin, gave a deep sigh, and brushed her aside. The colored girls squealed and ran off into the mansion. “Gentlemen, I plead with you!” said the woman. “We have barely enough to last till the next harvest and are eating but two small meals a day.”

Ignoring her, the captains and the two sergeants went directly to the kitchen, where they removed a half dozen loaves of bread, fresh and hot, from the oven. They proceeded to the root cellar, where they found dried vegetables. Out back in the smokehouse, they scrounged a small amount of pork. The cache was not sufficient to feed all the men, so two male servants were ordered to slaughter the last pig in the barnyard and roast it. Then McAnally politely but firmly demanded the woman and her slaves serve supper to his eighty men.

Two cows in a pasture behind the barn provided milk. After consuming their first hot meal in twenty-three days, the officers relaxed with the cigars and peach brandy they had relieved from the absent master’s private stock. They warned the woman and the colored servants to remain on the third floor of the mansion or they would shoot them on sight. Then officers occupied rooms on the first and second floors. Enlisted men took refuge in the cellar, the barn and in tents.


Petersburg soldier