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Mary Smith Dabney Ware, Civil War Women of Mississippi

Discussion in 'The Ladies Tea' started by 18thVirginia, Jul 16, 2017.

  1. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Captain Forum Host

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    I've explored women's experiences in western states during the Civil War, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Arkansas, but have had trouble finding accounts from Mississippi that didn't center only on Vicksburg, Then, I came across Mary Smith Dabney, who left us a story of going to Jackson to pick up supplies that General Grant made available to the local people.

    Mary Smith Dabney was the daughter of a local judge in Raymond, which was the county seat of Hinds County, where Jackson is located. Her father had served as probate judge both before and during the Civil War. Mary was one of 10 siblings who lived in a rambling house in Raymond with her parents, Augustine and Elizabeth Dabney. There of her brothers joined the Confederate Army. Mary Dabney Ware would travel extensively in her later life and a last chapter of a book on her travels would recount her Civil War experiences.

    ware.jpg
    Mary Smith Dabney Ware
     
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  3. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Captain Forum Host

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    The Battle of Raymond occurred on May 12, 1863 with Mary and her family treating wounded soldiers afterward. In August, 1863, Mary and family heard that Ulysses Grant was giving away livestock and supplies confiscated in Mississippi as his army made its way to Vicksburg. She and a neighbor, Mrs. McCowan, decided they would travel to Vicksburg to apply for a team of mules and a wagon. On August 15, 1863, Mary's brother, John Davis Dabney drove the wagon for the two women.

    We heard that General Grant was giving away the wagons and mules driven into Vicksburg from the plantations on the route of his march. It was decided that Kate Nelson [friend] and I should go to Vicksburg and obtain transportation from General Grant in person with a safe conduct from him through the Union lines. One evening late, just as this decision had been reached, a lady of our acquaintance, Mrs. McCowan, came over to see me. She had heard that I wanted to go to Vicksburg. She could furnish a vehicle and a horse and would willingly take me if my youngest brother, John Davis, could drive us. She protested, however, that it would not be possible to take Kate, as there was positively no room for another person."
    http://battleofraymond.org/ware.htm


    Raymond Battle.jpg

    Battle of Raymond​
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
  4. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Captain Forum Host

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    Mary Dabney, her neighbor and her brother set off at the crack of dawn and arrived at Grant's headquarters at the Big Black River Station at about noon.

    We got off very early next morning. My brother, though quite young, was an experienced driver, for it was he who made the weekly trips to Burleigh, my uncle's plantation, for meal, corn and an occasional piece of fine beef or mutton when the family were there, but they were at that time refugees in Georgia, and that resource for us had been cut off. We reached Big Black station about the middle of the day. There was an important Union garrison at this point.

    We asked to see the commanding general who assured me most courteously that our horse, which need rest very much, should be cared for and that meantime we were welcome to the hospitality of his tent. Soon after our arrival there, he invited us to dine with him. To have accepted dinner from a Union General would have been of course rank disloyalty, perhaps even treason, to the Confederate cause.

    We replied with thanks that we had brought our lunch with us. We partook therefore of this meager and unappetizing cold meal, while odors of the most alluring nature from that hot dinner came floating in to us. We were sustained, however, by the thought of our patriotic devotion to the Confederacy."
    https://www.civilwarwomenblog.com/mary-dabney/

    4a39475r.jpg

    Union wagons at Big Black River Station. LoC

     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
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  5. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Captain Forum Host

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    bigblackriverstation2.jpg
    Closeup at Big Black River Station
     
  6. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Captain Forum Host

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    Mary Dabney described meeting General Sherman.

    General Sherman came over from his camp to meet his wife and daughter who were arriving from Ohio. We were invited into a tent where he was visiting with another general. General Sherman’s ‘stock’ cravat [necktie] worried him. He took it off and was awkwardly trying to arrange it. I quite naturally held out my hand and took the cravat, stuck a pin into it and returned it to the General but no sooner had I done this than the enormity of my conduct became apparent to me.

    It was indeed nothing short of high treason to the Confederate cause and I believed that if Mrs. McCowan betrayed me to the people of Raymond I should be ostracized. Nor was the Sherman conversation [with another general] of a nature to allay my scruples. Sherman said he was persuading General Grant that the only way to end the war speedily was to burn and devastate the country, for the men would not remain in the Southern army if they knew their wives and children were homeless and hungry. He was so intent on demonstrating to his tenderhearted host the correctness of his theory that he took no thought of the two silent women on whom his words fell like the doom of an impending fate.”

    sherman-camp.jpg

    Sherman in Camp,
    Harper's Weekly
    http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1864/october/general-sherman-camp.htm
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
  7. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Captain Forum Host

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    Mary Dabney described some other Confederate women who'd come to try and acquire supplies:

    "While we were waiting there, women from the surrounding county began to collect in the tent. They came in all kinds of vehicles and told us they had come for the weekly rations which General Grant allowed them. I had not heard before that the Union army was feeding families in the devastated area. When the General came in from his dinner he said to the women that he had just received orders from Vicksburg to cease giving rations, as General Grant had been informed that they were used to feed Confederate soldiers.

    The women thereupon cried out as with one voice that they gave no food to Confederate soldiers, they had to feed their own children and the children of the Negroes, besides the old people, they did not have enough to give away, etc., multiplying and emphasizing these asseverations. Hearing this and fully convinced that a great wrong was being done these poor women, I turned to the General and said: "Do you not believe them? I certainly do, and even if you do not, it would be more humane and more just to give them time to make other arrangements instead of wasting it to come here for nothing."

    http://battleofraymond.org/ware.htm

    bbsrtrain.jpg
    Cropped image of Big Black River Station photo showing railroad cars loaded with supplies for Vicksburg.
    http://battleofchampionhill.org/history/big-black-station.htm
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
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  8. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Captain Forum Host

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    Mary describes how shocked she was that Confederate women lied to General Grant to obtain food.

    The general then told them that on his own responsibility he would furnish them rations for that week only, but that they must not return as he could not possibly disobey orders. I wish I could remember the name of this dear good man. I was blinded then by prejudice nor could I have read the hearts of men. As soon as the General left us to give orders for the rations and was well out of hearing, the women again with one united voice exclaimed, "Of course we feed Confederate soldiers! We would share our last crust of bread with them!"

    My astonishment was too great for words, nor should I have known what words to use under the circumstances. It was a case for casuistry. Were they wrong, believing as they did in the sacredness of the Confederate cause? Still they lied with too much ease. I could not get over it. We, in Raymond, had never refused a Confederate soldier food nor a place at our table. These women then had acted right, but why couldn't they have said, "Can we refuse food to the hungry? It would be unchristian," or better still, when to speak is to confess, why not keep silent? Well I felt that I had gone surety for a falsehood, and I was aggrieved against the women. But more exciting events were to follow."

    http://battleofraymond.org/ware.htm

    spears-house.jpg
    Cropped image from Big Black River Photo with Spears house on the right
    http://battleofchampionhill.org/history/big-black-station.htm
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
  9. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Captain Forum Host

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    MrsWilliamSherman.jpg

    Ellen Ewing Sherman took her children to visit General Sherman at his camp on the Big Black River. They stayed 6 weeks at the camp and on their return home, their son Willy suffered and died from yellow fever.

    Mary Dabney describes her feelings at seeing Mrs. Sherman.

    We were indeed a picture of the decaying fortunes of our poor Confederacy. Our hats and clothes looked as though they had come from a museum of ancient costumes. Mrs. Sherman and her daughter were dressed in the latest style, hats and traveling costumes in perfect taste and very "smart." The young lady was still very young, hardly fully grown. We would have gladly escaped to our vehicle but feared to call attention to our wretched selves. At length the Sherman party got off and we were free to depart.
    http://battleofraymond.org/ware.htm
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
  10. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Captain Forum Host

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    The Dabney's and McCowan finally reached Vicksburg.

    When we reached Vicksburg, Mrs. McCowan and I parted, each going to our respective friends. My brother John Davis and I were received most hospitably by Mrs. Creasy and her mother, Mrs. Pryor, whom we had often seen at our house in Raymond.

    Mrs. Creasy promised to take me next day to General Grant's headquarters. She said she knew one of his staff very well, Colonel [Harrison] Strong. This officer received us cordially as an old friend of Mrs. Creasy. We were taken immediately to General Grant.
    image007-1024x614.jpg
    Vicksburg from the top of the Courthouse
     
  11. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Captain Forum Host

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    Mary Dabney received her request wagons and mules and in later life, spoke kindly of Grant.

    The General ordered him [his chief of staff] to make out a paper entitling me to receive two wagons and four mules. When this precious document was safe in my hands, my peace of mind was restored. In spite of deep seated prejudice, I had to acknowledge to myself that General Grant was a very humane man, and I felt sure he could never commit a cruel act, that he would inevitably err if err it were, on the side of clemency.
    4a05076v.jpg
    Grant's Headquarters at Vicksburg, LoC
     
  12. NH Civil War Gal

    NH Civil War Gal Sergeant

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    Wonderful! Is there more? I'm 50% through reading General Sherman's memoirs. I find it amusing that she passed up a good meal out of scruplosity to the Confederate cause, and yet in his memoirs, when they were at Vicksburg, (he noted with amusement) fairly frequently the Confederate officers would use a flag of truce to come over on a slight pretext and have a visit and a meal for themselves and staff and horses. *They* didn't scruple!
     
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  13. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Captain Forum Host

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    Yes, there is more, just takes me awhile to match the photos with the memoir and put them together in a thread. Glad you're enjoying it!!! Wait for the comparison of Grant and Sherman.

    Mary describes General Grant's aides, Colonel Strong and Rawlins.

    After many jokes which I have forgotten for I was only intent on securing those wagons and mules, he asked me to follow him. At the end of the corridor he opened the door of a large room where a young man was at work at a desk. Before addressing him the General asked me in a low voice if I didn't think the young man was very handsome. I suppose he was really handsome, but what did that matter to me, to whom he was simply an enemy of the Confederacy?

    Not wishing to lose time I replied carelessly, "I don't think he is as handsome as Colonel Strong." Of course Colonel Strong's beauty, if he had any, had made no impression on me, but I said what I did because it seemed at the moment the best way of disposing of the question of Rawlins' beauty and of getting down to business, namely to wagons and mules. I had made my remark in a very low voice but now the General horrified me by calling out: "Rawlins, this young lady ways you are not as handsome as Strong." Poor Rawlins, thus exposed to criticism on his personal appearance before his superior office, got very red in the face. My fears led me to believe that I had decidedly jeopardized my transportation prospects and I was far more unhappy than Rawlins could possibly have been."

    75214dc709a21817c14ba09c41d67ff1.jpg
    U. S. Grant with Rawlins and Bowers, pinterest

    rawlins.jpg
    John A. Rawlins
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
  14. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Captain Forum Host

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    NH Civil War Gal, Mary Dabney compared the two generals that she'd met while asking for supplies for her Confederate family:

    In comparing the two men, General Grant and General Sherman, I felt and still feel sure that General Grant accomplished more by his kind heart than Sherman by his theory of ruthlessness. The latter took no thought of the soul of man which is not like that of any other of God's creatures. Men bend to force, but hatred smolders in their hearts. All this, however, is only stating in other words the old truth that Christianity is true statesmanship in dealing with a conquered foe, that evil cannot be overcome with evil. https://www.civilwarwomenblog.com/mary-dabney/

    1287480.jpg
    Sherman and Grant, LoC
     
  15. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Captain Forum Host

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    The persistent Mary went to General McPherson's hq to secure more wagons and mules.

    That evening Mrs. Creasy took me to General McPherson's headquarters to get from him the order for two more wagons and four more mules for the Nelson family [Raymond]. Mrs. Creasy agreed with me that this was better than to ask General Grant for all the transportation. It occurred to me, however, afterwards, that one of these two Generals might well have mentioned my mission to the other, and then what would they have thought of a young woman who sought by deception to acquire more than a just proportion of the plunder of Southern plantations! This thought tortured me and I felt sure I could have confided to General Grant the whole story, and Mrs. Creasy was there to corroborate it, but it is my fate always to commit mistakes and repent of them when too late.

    "When General McPherson heard my name, he said, "I read a letter from you to your brother when I was in charge of the prisoners on Johnson's Island." I said, "You should not have read a letter not intended for you." "But it was a duty enjoined on me to read all letters addressed to the prisoners. I should not have allowed that letter to go through according to rules, but I do so notwithstanding.

    http://battleofraymond.org/ware.htm


    balfour4.jpg

    Balfour House, General McPherson's Headquarters, Vicksburg
     
  16. 18thVirginia

    18thVirginia Captain Forum Host

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    General McPherson demonstrated his lenience to Southern ladies.

    General McPherson now took out some letters he had received from Southern ladies proving how lenient he had been in carrying out his instructions, how he had sympathized with them in their unmerited sufferings, privations, etc. He wanted me to read them.

    Now if there was one thing I dreaded more than another it was to be asked to read strange handwriting in public. I was therefore unwilling to make a spectacle of myself before General McPherson and Mrs. Creasy and got out of it as best I could by asking him questions. Why he cared in the least for my conversation is more than I can tell. I suppose that being in an enemy country he was deprived of ladies' society.

    I am very sure that if he had cultivated women to talk to he would never have listened to me, who had been born and bred in a town smaller than any Northern village; but whenever Mrs. Creasy would propose to go he would beg her to stay just a little longer, till that good lady, who took not the slightest interest in our conversation, got out of all patience and dragged me off.
    https://www.civilwarwomenblog.com/mary-dabney/


    courthouse vicksburg.jpg
    Courthouse at Vicksburg.
     
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  17. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    Without in the slightest wishing to attract the entire, agenda-ridden train of academic jargon still marching to the sea ( and leaving a big mess behind ), why cannot civilian voices be heard on these points? This is a terrific observation and not because I'm no Sherman fan ( or because Grant looks a lot like family photographs ). " War is H*ll " was and is excusatory- she's saying so. Everyone is so smitten with the quote, because John Wayne should have said it, no one looks at the H*ll.

    Seems a little simple, is the thing. So many separate wars for so many women. In the same way no one may tell the story of suffering at a prison without the story galloping off in the direction of " Oh yea, the other prison was worse ", our women must somehow give up their place in the war, if another's story was awful. Like History is too crowded, sorry folks!

    @AshleyMel , you may like this thread. It's just eyes-on-the-ground, witness, woman in the South.
     
  18. donna

    donna Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

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    Wonderful thread. She was a brave and gallant lady.
     
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  19. Gladys Hodge Sherrer

    Gladys Hodge Sherrer Sergeant

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    Sherman's words, "for the men would not remain in the Southern army is they knew their wives and children were homeless and hungry", were explicitly fulfilled. It was under Sherman's orders, and not due to stragglers , nor occasional errant Federal soldiers or freedmen followers of his armies, that the firestorm of destruction consumed the South.
     
  20. Booklady

    Booklady Corporal

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    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
  21. Booklady

    Booklady Corporal

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    Now who can't identify with THAT?!
    Wonderful thread! Thank you so much for all your time and effort!
     

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