Sarah was sitting on the porch; shelling the last of the peas she had picked that morning. The Georgia sun was still low in the sky, but she knew by noon it would be blazing and the dew that had been on the grass that morning would melt away to the heat of summer. She was already hot and she wiped her forehead with her apron as thought about the day ahead of her. With a sigh, She looked out onto the empty dry fields remembering a time when they had been white with cotton. Now with no one to work them they had fallen to ruin. She did manage to keep the little garden going giving herself enough to eat, but times were hard with Floyd away fighting in the war. He left her behind signing up with some of the other men in the area and promising “To be home in a few weeks”. Those weeks had turned into almost a year. Their son Early Barto (Bud) had been learning to sit up when his daddy left. Now he was walking and into everything.
Sarah took the letter she had received almost a month ago out of her pocket and read it again.
“My Darling Sarah,
I hope this letter finds you and little Bud doing well. I am fair. My bowels have been bothering me and I have not been well. I have been in the hospital in Virginia for a while now but I am getting better and will return to my unit soon. They are somewhere south of here. We can hear the cannon fire and if I look out my window I can see the campfires at night. I pray that this war will end soon and I can come home to you and little Bud. Give him a kiss for me and one for yourself.
Your loving husband
Sarah sighed and put the letter away. Walking into the house she took the cornbread that had been baking out of the oven and dropped the peas into the water boiling on the stove. She sewed on her quilt awhile resting and thinking of Floyd and how happy they were together before the war.
Baby Bud who was waking up from his nap interrupted her thoughts and she quickly went to him. After she had changed him and fed him some of the cornbread mashed with the juice from the peas, and a cup of milk she had got from the cow that morning she sat him on the floor to play while she ate her own meal. She sliced a tomato and ate it along with the peas and cornbread. She thought about going out to the smoke house for a ham, but then remembered she only had a few left and it was a long time until fall when the pigs could be slaughtered. She hoped she could find someone to do that for her this year but with so many of the men away that chore might fall upon her.
Sarah finished her meal and almost had the table cleared when she heard the sound of hoof beats and shouting from the road. She quickly grabbed baby Bud and ran into the yard. The rider stopped in the cloud of red dust out of breath shouting. The Yankees are coming, Not more than a mile from here. Hurry Ma’am hide, they will be here soon. With that he road off leaving her standing there. At first Sarah couldn't move, she was so frighten, then she realized she had to hurry. She ran inside with Bud telling him to sit and play, that she would be right back. She prayed he wouldn’t fall onto the stove while she was gone. The wood was still hot from the meal she had just cooked. She didn’t have time to think about that now she had to hurry.
She ran for the smoke house and took her hams down. There were two big ones and she had to carry them one at a time. She ran past the well and down the lane and into the woods. Sarah remembered where a big tree had fallen last fall when the heavy rains had come. It had rotted over the winter and now had a hollowed out place in the stump. She took the first ham hid it there and ran back for the other as fast as her legs would go. She put them both in the tree and looked around for some brush to cover it. She then took the cow and hid it by the river, praying they wouldn't find it. Then she ran back to yard and into the house. Baby Bud was still happily playing on the floor. Just as Sarah scooped him into her arms she heard the sound of horses coming. She looked out her window. There were men all around her house now pulling into a circle under the big oak tree at the end of the yard. Sarah straightened her hair and opened the door.
Ma’am I am General Smith, and these are my men. We have been commandeered by Union Army to take food for our troops. Sarah stood silent afraid to speak and watched as the men killed her pigs and chickens. They brought them into the house and told Sarah that they need to be cooked. The men were hungry. One man pushed her aside dipping his fingers into the pot of peas she had left on the stove and helping himself to the rest of the cornbread. They opened all her jars of food, throwing them to the ground and breaking the glass as they poured the food into a pan. They took every thing she had left from last winter. They took everything from her garden. Knocking down the fence post. Tearing the door off the barn. Sarah was angry, but she was more scared. She had baby Bud to think about. Who would take care of him if anything happened to her? Sarah did what the men told her and she cooked for the men for three days and nights, sleeping little. When the men were finally gone she breathed a sigh of relief and she smiled to herself. At lest the hams were safe and Floyd would be coming home soon. After all the war couldn’t last much longer.
Floyd and Sarah
This short story is a work of fiction. However
Floyd, Sarah and baby Bud were real people.
Floyd and Sarah were my great great grandparents. Floyd did fight in the Civil war and was in the hospital in Richmond VA for most of the war with diarrhea, The Yankees did come to Floyd and Sarah’s house and Sarah was made to stay up and cook for them for the three days that they camped around an old oak tree in her front yard. She did save her cow by hiding it and her hams by hiding them in an old tree and the men did kill all her pigs and chickens. Early Barto Barker was my great grandfather, he was born in 1861 so he was a baby during this time.
What is not known is the exact time of year that the Yankee troops were camped at Sarah house, nor how long she had to hide her things. . I do not know how many men arrived, but we do know from oral history that they stayed three days. We do not have any letters from Floyd to Sarah so that part I made up. Along with what she thought and what she ate and so on. I have only been given oral history of the event itself so the rest of the story is fiction.
This is my first attempt at writing a short story and I hope you enjoyed it.
Labels: Civil War History, Family Life