My Dear Birdie;
You asked me to give you some of my Wartime experience and to describe my wedding; I am going to begin with some events prior to the War between the States. At this time I was living with my mother, two brothers and a sister at La Fayette Georgia (Dr LaFayette and John and Miss Laura Kelly) across the street from your home and right in the house where your Sister, Mrs John Knox now lives. Your mother Mrs H. B. Johnston being my Sister, your father Brother Boud, as we affectionately called him, was a father to us and we dearly loved him. I had a Sister, Mrs Cicero Mc Cutchen, who lived in Dalton Georgia and John Henry Bitting, the man whom I married later, lived in North Carolina, he also had a sister living in Dalton, Mrs. (Colonel) Shumate[Elizabeth Gertrude Bitting It so happened that we visited our sisters at the same time one Summer and there met. We soon got to be good friends, in those days people oftentimes drove fine mules instead of horses to their Carriages and he drove a pair of very large fine Grays and on one of our drives he took me out one and one half miles to see what he thought a very beautiful country home and when I admired it too, he said, I will [???] on my return home will see if I can persuade my mother and younger brother to let me buy it, he then remembered that he would have to wait a few months until he was 21 years old and graduated from College before he could do so much, and it was then time for him to go back to school, which he did and graduated and imediately took every degree in Masonery he could lawfully take, came back to Georgia bought the Farm "Beechland" moved his mother and negroes and set up house keeping. A very short while after the war broke out and he enlisted in the Dalton Guards, an old Co., that had been in organization for some time before the war was even thought of, and fought until the end, was shot through his hat, through his sleeve twice and arm grazed with only a little blood to tell the tale, but had all the hardships, heartaches & etc, but always a brave good soldier, would say, I would do It again if necessary. And now, about our wedding; one afternoon without any warning Mr Bitting came and immediately begun insisting that we be married, I had no idea of doing so then but he got lined up with Brother Boud (your father) who was an advocate of marriage, and as Phillip's Legion was to be transferred to the Western Army and it would be a long time before he would ever have another furlough and if he got sick or wounded I could not go to him, and nurse him unless we were married, so I consented, and in a very short while the house was filled to overflowing, not-withstanding the rain was pouring in torrents. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Edwin M. Dyer. Joe Cubberson the only young man in the town or county, and he would not have been there but, sent home to die of Tubercolosis. He could hardly stand while the ceremony was being performed, and died a very short while after. They, with my two little Nephews, Not and Wirt Johnston (your brothers) and Moll and Noll Dyer were the attendants. Your father gave me away. My dress was not new, and could not have been unless I had married in homespun, as many brides did, because it was so a hard to get any thing new, and very expensive too, but, my dress was really beautiful and the most expensive I had ever had. It was Tan and Gold heavy Brocaded Silk, that could almost stand alone, had tight fitting waiste with point in back and front, Skirt, enormously full with hoop skirt and shoes called Gaitors to match, laced on inside of foot and ankle, white Kid gloves, gold earrings with long pendants, the dress waiste was low neck worn with small cape, edged with deep lace, could wear the cape, or not as desired had detachable sleeve, both long and short, so that either could be worn. You see it was a combination for evening or afternoon wear.
To prove that John (Mr. Bitting) meant immediate business he came in Carriage drawn by the two Gray match mules, very popular in those days, and I had ridden behind them often before. Immediately after the ceremony we sat down to as fine a dinner, or breakfast, as you ever saw, and I don't know how they did it on ouch short notice, but both your mother and mine had very fine cooks, and knew themselves how to have elaborate meals prepared and they each had a finger in the pie. Turkey with everything that goes with it, and they had even taken enough sugar to make a desert and a few grains of real coffee mixed with some substitute, but everything else was home grown. While we were eating another girl came in with a bunch of Green Celery, said she went out in the rain to get it because she wanted John to have every thing he liked before going back to starvation. Immediately after the meal John said he must start on the journey, which he did. When he got to creek, found it past fording so came back, but, said if he could not do any thing else by dark, he would have to swim the creek, as he was compelled to reach his post by a certain time. Near dark a number of friends went as far a the creek with him and saw him safely over, that was the last I saw of him for over a year, when they were transferred to some other place, I forget where, he got a short leave. We had never dreamed that the Yankees could pass Chattanooga, and Lookout Mountain, but, it was not very long until we heard big and little guns in every direction. Your father said it was advisable for us all to refugee somewhere below Atlanta so he imediately started out to find a place of safety. You know he owned big Tanyards and operated them for the government, Goverment came first in everything, and as he had to travel all over the country buying hides and having shoes made for the Army, he, of course carried large sums of money, so either your Aunt Laura or I went with him to conceal the money. We loved him as a father, one of these trips gave me a chance to see a good deal of country as well as valuable experience which I think may be of interest to you, it was the time of big bustles and when Bother Boud told me I must devise some way to conceal the money, I set to work. In those days we not only wore Bustles but any number of what we called Petticoats and now called slips, well the first Petticoat was rather short and worn under the Hoopskirt, I put a broad hem in this and as the money was in large bills I put some of them in the hem and tucked them smoothly so they would not be detected, I then took a number of News Papers and tucked bills smoothly between them and laped all the papers over a strong cord or band of some kind. Papers, strings and every thing of the kind were scarce and precious in those days (guess that is why I never destroy them now, they always remind me of the big sums of money they helped me to take care of and in the end did none of us any good except the (Damn Yankies as some of the ladies in middle Georgia still call them) and tied this around my waist and then put on several more skirts and traveled hundreds of miles even keeping them on in bed at night, must admit I was not very comfortable, one of my experiences I will never forget, John had little care for vain glory and fought in the ranks but was and had been for some time 1st Lieutenant when the War closed, he belonged to Phillip's Legion Brekinridge’s Brigade, he had belonged to a Militia Company in N.C. but after getting to Georgia thought he might get to the front sooner, so joined the old Dalton Guards and went to Va. with first troops and was at the surrender at Appomadtox. Brother Boud had two boys and four girls that he was anxious to educate being highly educated himself. Forty miles below Atlanta at Covington the Masonic Temple College was located and two miles from there the Oxford Male College, both very fine schools, he was well pleased that he could give his children such advantages so he bought a beautiful home in Covington so the girls could go to the Female College and boys were large enough to walk to Oxford.
He also bought a Tanyard out a few miles. He was delighted as he said the Yankies would never get that far South.
Our hard times just began. Our oldest brother, who was a Doctor, we thought would be with us, was made assistant Surgeon and called to the front. The other brother, 15 years old, got the fighting fever when the Yanks began advancing. We hoped he would sent back home but was imediately made color bearer and pet of the Regiment and was killed the day after the surrender in a skirmish, his pals told us he was waiving his flag when shot, they of course, did not know of surrender and were still fighting. Your father thought that my married sister and I had best take some of our most valuable negroes, that we could hire for big prices and help pay our expences as our wealth consisted mostly in Negroes. John was already writing for us to hurry and go to North Carolina and join the Bogles before we were utterly cut off. (Dr Bogle was another brother who had refuged from Raymond, Miss)
We were so opposed to leaving our Mother and Sister, Your Mother, husband and children for we did not know how Brother Boud (Mr Johnston) with no one but negroe’s help, which he never could have done without, for it was an awful experience, but the Goverment was at hear of everything, as there were no white men left, all in Army, he pressed every wagon and team in the whole country into service, dragged the hides out of vats dripping with water, loaded them in wagons and took them to Rigold, the nearest Station and shiped them to Covington where he followed with his family. He also took charge of Col Shumate’s and Judge McCoutchen’s families. He managed with untold trials to get us all Refuged to Covington and Oxford, but from exposure during those trying days he took cold and in a very short while he was taken violently ill and in a few days died, leaving an inexperienced wife and five little children, the only male member a little boy of eight years among entire strangers with such heavy responsibilities thousands of dollars worth of leather and no one except the negro tenants to look after it. But as soon as the authorities found how conditions were Dr Kelly was exempted from Army Duties and appointed to look after Goverment belongings and also your mother's affairs. As soon as we could get a little adjusted after your father’s death your Aunt Laura and I took ten or fifteen Negroes as a nest Egg and started for N.C. to join Dr Bogle and family, you know from taking the negroes with us we had not given up hope of victory in the end. We went on Rail Road and were two weeks on roads, every little while the wheels would catch on fire and nearly frighten us to death, the passengers were packed like sardines trying to find places of safety.
The cause of the wheels catching on fire was lack of oil or grease which it was almost imposible to get. We were overjoyed when we reached. Statesville and the Bogles were just as glad to see us and treated us royally, gave us plenty to eat of everything good. We had been living on Cow Peas, Corn Bread, sorgum Molases and all sorts of Coffee, wheat, rye, parched to make it taste a little like Coffee and worst of all parched Sweet Potatoes, they ran the Blockade and had almost everything and were kind to Refugees. I will never forget some rich Jews that were so very kind to us. I will never go buck on the Jews. Right here I had better give you the interesting story of the Masonic Apron that saved my trunk and also many things belonging to the Shumutes where my trunk was found, I divided my time between the two families and kept a trunk at each place in order not to lose every thing at once, in those times the Yankies took what they wanted and destroyed the balance so a few days before I was to start to N.C. they raided into Covington, ransacked Col. Shumate’s house where I had my trunk in the back of a dark Closet, in my room, they had found, in the wardrobe, a pair of valuable boots and pair of new shoes that John had expected to dress up in when the war was ended, when they found them they just whooped as they would rather get them than anything except fire arms and they had already found a gun and walked out into the yard and after many comments broke it into atoms over a stump. We had stored wheat upstairs for safety but I saw them bring sack after sack down and load it into a wagon, and to the Carriage hitched the Grey mules that I told you about and drove off, you can imagine how I felt, but we had concluded that they had overlooked the dark closet and I would at least have a change of garments left, when a great commosion arose they had found a trunk with a valuable Masonic Apron, in a few minutes I saw a commanding looking Officer walk through the house, go into my room and then he commanded them to put, everything, back in the trunk and lay the Masonic Apron exactly where they found it and leave the house immediately, the most valuable things, foodstuff, were already gone, to say nothing of horses, cows & etc. We did find a side of meat on a stump in the yard. I am a strong believer in Masonary, no telling what they would have done if they had not found the Apron. Col. McCutchen had a very valuable watch, an heirloom, and when I started to North Carolina he asked me to take it with me, and to take special care of it. I constantly carried it with me. When the first raid came into Statesville it was very unexpected, I had no time to think where to hide the watch, but seeing a slop jar full of water I dropped the watch in, which proved successful. The Yanks stayed near by for several days and I left it in its watery hiding place until they were gone. I was afraid the works would be ruined, but when I took it to a Jeweler he said it was a vary fine watch and might be injured some but, would do his best to restore it, which he did, and when I gave it to Col. McCutchen he was delighted, said he prized it more highly because it was once his father’s. Dr Bogle usually when meeting the raiders would find Masons among them and tell about the apron and it always had a good effect, and they would leave provisions. Dr. Bogle was a bright man, a very magnetic man and made friends easily and I am sure saved us much trouble, to this day many of Middle and South Georgia aristocrats, still call them "Damn Yanks" and say they would like to put it a little stronger, but the High Hats of North Georgia, hardly ever say any thing worse dog-gone, or confound the Yanks, which is bad enough. I have gotten over most hard feelings as life is too short to waste in that way. I stayed in Georgia long enough to see every ear of corn and all the stock taken, which meant starvation unless the war closed soon. I stayed in North Carolina until the summer, and as I have told you my 16 year old brother was killed day surrender, in a skirmish. Two of his comrades brought his remains to Statesville and we buried him in the family lot of one of my mother's relatives. My mother and sisters, Mrs. Johnston and Mrs. McCutchen were still in Covington Ga., and we had been cut off from them for several months, only hearing from them when some one would pass through. Some days after the surrender, John with several other soldiers came creeping in at the back door, nearly bare-footed and as dirty as could be, for I have never seen such dust, caused by the passing army. Every one bare-footed or nearly so. Said they were ashamed to be seen, had no baggage. John was awfully dissapointed when I told him the Yanks had taken his shoes. I had never written him about it, hoping something good would happen, but he seemed so happy and in some way through the help of friends, we got them fairly well cleaned up. Of course nobody then had any thing but confederate money and he had .50¢. He had a wealthy Uncle [possibly Joseph Bitting who had quantities of tobacco who told him if he could manage to get a Yankee ambulance that he, would in some way get the horses, and he could go to work and see what he could do selling tobacco, and in that way he get some money, and was crazy to get to our home in Ga. About this time our friends in some way got a letter through and told us that our home had been burned and two children perished in the flames. A $3,000.00 Library together with all furniture and household effects were gone. In spite of all this he kept in good spirits, and said if the Lord would spare him, he knew after going through the war he could in some way make a living. His Uncle lived on a big plantation on the river, he invited us to stay with him indefinitely. His wife was a fine woman and very capable, although she had been reared in the lap of luxury. They entertained quite a good deal and at that time had a crowd of young people with them. Aunt Love, one day asked us if we could pick and dress a chicken, every one of us had to say we had never even tried to do such a thing, Aunt Love said she would, the next day, teach me how to do that and many other things I would be called on to do, that she knew from the way her servants were acting, that we would all, soon have to go to work, and young people, boys or girls, had ever done any sort of work, and never thought it would be necessary. She taught me many useful things and I put in good time doing any thing that came to hand, and I certainly appreciated it later. John never tired of eating fried chicken. I think Southern Boys and Girls fell very gracefully from their High Horses and made good workers. About this time, Dr. Bogle wrote John that he, his [????] wife and sister Laura were anxious to turn their heads toward Ga. (they were still in Statesville). We joined them and with two ambulances and four broken down abandoned Yankee horses started on our journey. The negroes we brought out all begged to be brought back, and while we could not afford it, as we were going to camp out knew that we would need them, the women were fine cooks so we appreciated their help, at the same time realized that old time servants were a thing of the past after we got settled. We surely had a hard trip, every few miles the broken-down horses would stop and not move until they took a notion, which sometimes would be hours. There were no trains in operation between Statesville N.C. and Covington Ga., which was our first destination, it took. three weeks to make the trip. Dr. Bogle had a good horse and buggy that they traveled in and we would swap with them occasionally, which did a lot of good. We surely were glad to rest awhile. In a few days John got on train and went to Dalton to make arrangements for me to go on, so soon as I rested from the terrible trip. We knew that a part of the Yankee Army was still in,and around Dalton, but had no idea of the condition of things. John wrote me the condition of things and told me that if I liked I could stay in Covington until conditions were better, or at least until he could get a decent house, or room that I could live in, said every decent house had been destroyed, or used as Hospitals, and in such bad condition that we could not live in it, that he was staying in Hotel and a lady that I knew before the war was in charge, and said we could fix a room for me just as nice as she could until we could do better, so I decided to go and see for myself. John met me at Twelve O’Clock at night, from the smell and other things, principally Yankees, I felt like I was in Purgatory, did not sleep a wink and when John took me into the dinning room I was so shocked thought I would faint, three or four long tables it looked to me like hundreds of Yankees seated, not a woman in sight. John said he was frightened himself for fear the sight of so many Yankees might overcome me. The Yankees were very pleasant and told him they would be glad to do any thing for my comfort, and some of the officers told him they were thinking of bringing their wives, and knew they would try to make it pleasant for me, but as soon us we got out I told him we would go and find shelter somewhere else. We tramped all day and every house we went into found life sized bloody prints of men, and blood splashed clear to ceiling. It was an awful experience and we did not find a place to lay out heads, so just had to spend another night at Hotel. Went out again next morning and found one room they told us had not been used for hospital, but for one man where he soon died, and to prove to us they showed us the print of a man that was exactly where we would have to place the bed, said they would furnish a rug to spread over that. John went out to find some body to scour. John’s mother and sister had taken with them to Oxford two old servants who had been in the family, always when John was leaving for Dalton they begged not to be left, so told Uncle Marshall and Aunt Frank to pack every thing they could in one of the Ambulances and come on to Dalton just as soon as they could get there, and we were truly glad to see them, and they sure did faithful work in trying to get the blood stains scoured up. Wonder if you remember your Grand Mother’s old Press that she brought from North Carolina, well I fell heir to it and started to take it back to. N.C.(?) when we got as far as Covington found we could not take it any further, so told Uncle Marshall to put it in Ambulance and take good care of it until we could re-build at Beechland. It had been through thick and thin but is now safe at Beechland, and is very much admired by antique admirers. I forgot to tell you that John’s youngest sister [Mary Ann Bitting who married an Army surgeon was taken seriously ill and died before her husband could reach her, and his young brother [Nicholas Bitting also went to war, under age, and stayed until the surrender. Uncle Marshall and Aunt Frankie certainly did good work cleaning up but no amount of scrubbing ever erases blood stains.
We moved in and went to house keeping with the help of the servants who in came in first for I had never prepared a meal in my life and John was not willing for me to do so, as it was considered very degrading for a lady to do any kind of labor that a Negro could do. We > had expected Uncle Marshall to bring a few [?????] [?????] but he said [???] [???] were just as no account as the Yankees and he had to leave nearly every thing at homes along the road for the McCutchens, Johnstons and Bogles to pick up, which they did as soon as they could patch houses to move into. An old country man loaned us a bed and two quilts. [??] converted a goods box into a dining table, sat on smaller boxes. Aunt Frankie was a good cook and had brought an Iron Pot with her, she made fine biscuit and boiled coffee in a tin can. John was always in fine humor and tried to make things easy for me. There were several Brigades stationed in Dalton and the town covered with tents, so close to us that the men could hear every word we uttered, so you know I had a delightful time. They would come in just any time to have a chat. Pretty soon John managed to get a cow that gave more milk than we could use, so Aunt Frankie proposed to sell to the Yankees and I was glad to turn milk into money. They insisted on having every drop we could spare, said it was the best they had ever tasted, so I was making a lot of money. There was one Col. That seemed to like us very much and was anxious for John to go hunting with him, but I objected and gave as my reasons that I did not like to be left alone, he laughed and assured me so that I need not be afraid as I would be perfectly safe as long as they stayed there, but about this time the men no longer came for milk. When the Col. came the next time, I told him and asked if they were afraid I would poison them, or because the negroes did the milking, I had heard they would not eat anything the negroes touched, he laughed again and said it might be both, but he would be glad if I would give him a glass of milk right then, he continued to come to see us all the time and would always drink a glass of milk when I offered it, but the men never came any more for milk. We managed to live there until John, in some way, got enough money to build a modest little three room house, with a lean-to for a kitchen, and a small house for Uncle Marshall and Aunt Frankie. I looked on them as my friends and protectors and they proved faithful, were good servants for many years. After they were too old to do anything we supported and had them cared for until the end. We had not then been to see how things looked at Beechland, but John came in one day and said there was a wagon going out near Beechland, and if I could stand the trip we would go out and see what the possibilities were for building. You can imagine our feelings when we saw the bareness of the place, home gone, every negro house burned, the only thing left standing was a crib which had been set on fire and had either gone out, or been put out. A woman who had lived in the neighborhood during the war said the mother of the children told her that the Yankees told her that if she would burn the house and children they would take her to Chattanooga and give her a fine house to live in. Thank the Lord the grand old trees were still standing and hundreds of names cut on them. We built our little house, moved in and were as happy as if it had been a mansion, but it did not take as much to make people happy then as it does now. After years we built a large house, and 6 or 7 years ago added still more to it, making it large enough to house all my children, grand children, great grand children and some friends. It is only used as a summer home mow, and, at some time during every summer all gather there for some days. As you know I spend the winter in Macon Ga., with my daughter Mrs. Satterfield [Elizabeth Delphia Bitting >
I(?) enjoyed your little visit there last summer and hope to see you > there again next summer. Hoping I have not made my letter too long, I > am, with much love,
Mrs. Eugenia Kelly Bitting