Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Refugee Train leaves Columbia - Feb 1865

From the Autobiography of Gen. O. O. Howard: 
My rear guard for February 20, 1865, the day of departure, consisted of two brigades, one from each corps. They were the two that were then guarding the town. Just in advance of these, who had brought out all the stragglers, was a new and remarkable accession to my columns, called a "refugee train." It consisted of thousands of people who wished to leave Columbia, mostly Negroes besides at least 800 Whites.' The refugees carried their luggage on pack horses, on their backs, or in vehicles of every conceivable description.

A variety of reasons caused this extraordinary exodus; for example, escaping prisoners feared re- incarceration  those who had betrayed their loyalty to the old flag, hitherto concealed, feared revenges; those who had been especially kind to the Yankees had signs of coming retribution, and many who had lost everything by the fire desired to escape extreme want - besides these, a number of traders, bent upon money- making, joined the procession with wagon loads of trunks and boxes. I may say that I was obliged to deal severely with the latter class, at least with the freightage, in order to reduce my refugee train within such limits that it could be protected and brought along without detriment or hindrance to the fighting force of the army.

In a letter written a little later, which I sent down the Cape Fear River for home consumption, I re marked that we brought from Columbia quite a number of men, women, and children who had trudged along in wagons, ambulances, on horses, or on foot. We had two families at our headquarters who had completely mastered all the discomforts of military life and enjoyed the novelty. A gentleman artist, by the name of Halpin, with his wife and daughter, and a Mr. Soule, a telegraph operator, with his bride, were our guests.

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