Christmas Vandals in Georgia
The first journal entry recounts something common to the Northern invasion of the South in 1861-1865—the frequency of Northern soldiers raping black women as they ransacked plantations and destroyed what they could not carry away. With the black men driven off to serve as cheap laborers or cannon-fodder in Lincoln’s army, the slave women were left to fend for themselves.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Christmas Vandals in Georgia:
Mrs. Mary S. Mallard in Her Journal
“Monday, December 19th. Squads of Yankees came all day, so that the servants scarcely had a moment to do anything for us out of the house. The women, finding it unsafe for them to be out of the house at all, would run in and conceal themselves in our dwelling. The few remaining chickens and some sheep were killed. These men were so outrageous at the Negro houses that the Negro men were obliged to stay at their houses for the protection of their wives; and in some instances, they rescued them from the hands of these infamous creatures.
Tuesday, December 20th. A squad of Yankees came soon after breakfast. Hearing there was one yoke of oxen left, they rode into the pasture and drove them up…needing a chain…they went to the well and took it from the well bucket. Mother went out and entreated them not to take it from the well, as it was our means of getting water. They replied: “You have no right to have even wood or water,” and immediately took it away.
Wednesday, December 21st. 10 A.M. Six of Kilpatrick’s cavalry rode up, one of them mounted on Mrs. Mallard’s valuable gray named Jim. They looked into the dairy and empty smokehouse, every lock having been broken and doors wide open day and night. They searched the servants’ houses; then the thundered at the door of the dwelling. Mother opened it, when one of them presented a pistol to her breast and demanded why she dared keep her house closed, and that “he be damned if he would not come into it.”
She replied, “I prefer to keep my house closed because we are a helpless and defenseless family of women and children.” He replied, “I’ll be damned if I don’t just take what I want. Some of the men got wine here, and we must have some.” She told them her house had been four times searched in every part, and everything taken from it. And recognizing one who had been of the party that had robbed us, she said: “You know my meal and everything has been taken.”
He said, “We left you a sack of meal and that rice.”
Mother said, “You left us some rice; but out of twelve bushels of meal you poured out a quart or so upon the floor—as you said, to keep us from starving.”
Upon one occasion one of the men as he sat on the bench in the piazza had his coat buttoned top and bottom, and inside we could plainly see a long row of stolen breast jewelry—gallant trophies, won from defenseless women and children at the South to adorn the persons of their mothers, wives, sisters, and friends in Yankeeland!”
(The War the Women Lived, Walter Sullivan, J.S. Sanders & Company, 1995, pp. 238-239)