Making a Clean Sweep.—If the practice of plundering the house of an enemy of all its provisions were ever justifiable, it would seem to have been partially so in the following instance, which is related by a veteran of the Army of the Cumberland:
We had had but a scanty allowance of food for several days, and the boys were getting to be pretty wolfish. Not far from our camp − by the way, this was down in Tennessee, in '62 − there was a large rebel plantation, with a fine house, which the niggers said was actually overstocked with every thing nice. Some of the boys went there to try and raise something to eat. Several very stylish-looking ladies came out on the portico; but when we asked them for food − gracious! − how they abused us! It was perfectly savage! They presented pistols, and said they’d blow out our brains, and in fact “carried on” as only “reb” women can. Well − we retreated.
About an hour after, Major W_____ and several others of our officers went to the same house, where the ladies gave them a luncheon, and at the same time provoked and annoyed them as much as possible, by giving an exaggerated account of the manner in which they had, as they said, driven off a band of Federal thieves that morning, and scared them to death with rusty and un-loaded old pistols. They didn't spare the major, and insulted him by ridiculing his soldiers, until he was as mad as a hornet.
I don't know how it was, but, soon after the major got back to camp, somebody proposed to shell that house out. Down we went with a rush. The ladies came out in a rage, and flourished their old pistols, and abused us like street-walkers; but it was all of no use. The boys swarmed like bees into the cellar; and I tell you, it was the best filled house I ever foraged on. What they ever intended to do with such supplies of canned fruits and meats, such rows on rows of hams, and barrels of every thing nice, I can't imagine. The boys filled bags, and sheets, and blankets, and wheeled the plunder off, or carried it −”like good fellows.”
Of course the ladies sent off post haste to Major W_____, to come and stop this business. He was a very long time in coming − very. I think that the messenger must have had a hard time to find him. And when he got there he didn't speak to any of us, and seemed to be rather slow in taking in the whole story from the ladies. When he had heard them out − and it takes a long time for an angry woman to say all that she has to say − he bowed, and said: “Ladies, I will see to it at once.” So down he came, and began to rate us in this style:
“Men, what do yon mean by such infernal conduct? Stop your pillaging at once!” (Then aside.) “I hope you've cleaned the place out, d—n it!” (Aloud.) “Put down that bag of potatoes, you scoundrel!” (Aside.) “And roll off that barrel of sugar, you d—d fool!” (Aloud.) “If I catch you foraging again in this fashion, I’ll make you repent it.” (Aside.) “Pitch into the grub, boys!—there’s a whole chest of tea in that dark corner!”
As the major went up-stairs, the cellar was empty. The last thing I heard him say to the ladies was that “his men should never forage there again,” and his last aside − ”I don't think they've left a single d—d thing to steal.”
Brockett, Dr. L. P., The Camp, The Battle Field, and the Hospital; or, Lights and Shadows of the Great Rebellion, Philadelphia: National Publishing Company, 1866
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