Page:Memorials of a Southern Planter.djvu/208
MEMORIALS OF A SOUTHERN PLANTER
that we should not be able to keep him with us. His intenwe sufferings from loneliness urged him, no less than his love for the military life, to plunge into the excitement now so near at hand. In his grief he said not infrequently in those days that it would have been better for him if he had had no children left him to take care of. All the men in the land who were men indeed were off in the army; the whole country seemed forsaken, except by the old men and the boys and the women and children. He envied every soldier in the ranks, and felt like a chained lion. Not to go into the army cost him, without a doubt, the greatest struggle of his life.
The rumor came that the whole country around Vicksburg was to be abandoned to the enemy. Already General Grant's troops were moving on Vicksburg, and that place would soon be in a state of siege. The citizens were fleeing in every direction. Thomas Dabney, feeling that he had a home and food to offer to these homeless ones, caused to be inserted into one of the Vicksburg papers an invitation to any and all citizens desirous of leaving the city to take refuge at Burleigh.One family of Louisiana refugees had come to us before this. This invitation brought out an English-woman, Mrs. Allen, and her two children, and later on her husband. At this juncture our hopes were raised by the arrival of an officer, sent out by General Pemberton, with orders to seize every pleasure horse in the country. A large body of men were to be mounted, we were told, and this body of cavalry was to patrol the country lying around Vicksburg; and even to relieve that place when the time came. The officer was astonished when he was hailed as the bringer of joyful tidings. Many ladies, he said, had shed tears when their carriage and other favorite horses had been carried off by him. He had gotten nervous, and hated to come among the women of the country with that dreadful order in his hand. Every horse in the Burleigh stables was brought out freely. One riding horse was exempted from the draft as a necessary part of the plantation equipment.