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Dale County Alabama
Dothan was in Henry County until 1903;
earlier it was known as Poplar Head


Dale County CSA Records


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     Dale County Alabama  And Its People During The Civil War

                          (Reminiscences of Mary Love (Edwards) Fleming)

          The author, Mrs. Fleming wrote this article around the turn of the
century.  This article was presented by a Col. Thomas Spencer, for the Alfred
Holt Colquitt Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Atlanta, Ga. 
Later it was published in the Alabama Historical Quarterly by Peter A.
Brannon, Editor in the Spring Issue, 1957.

          When the Civil War was going on I was quite a young girl,
consequently my recollections of that period are not as accurate as or
complete as those of a person of more mature age at that time.  But before
writing these pages I have confirmed the accuracy of my recollections by
talks with my mother, aunts, uncles, and brothers, who are still living near
our old home.  Our home was in the western part of Dale County in south-east
Alabama, seven miles west of Ozark, five miles south of Haw Ridge, and about
one mile from Clay Bank Creek.  This creek is almost as large as Pea River,
which flows through dale and Coffee Counties and about ten miles from us. 
There were two large mills situated on this creek, one a mile east of us,
belonged to Judge Crittenden, and the other, Parrish's mill, was about two
miles away and further down the creek.  At Crittenden's mill lumber was
sawed, corn ground into meal, and rice was cleaned.  There was also a wood
shop and a blacksmith shop there.  At Parrish's mill corn was ground into
meal, and the little wheat that a few of the farmers occasionally raised, was
ground into flour.  This grain did not seem to thrive in our country, and
consequently little of it was planted.
          Almost all of the citizens of our neighborhood were well to do,
respectable people.  I do not think I have ever known any better society in
town or city than we had there.  Of course it was not as fashionable and
ceremonious or wealthy a community as some others, but life there was
wholesome and good, which cannot be said of a great many places today.  The
Crittenden, Edwards, Mizell, Ardis, White, Mobley, Matthews, Martin, Goff,
Chalker, and Byrd families were the principal ones living in our
neighborhood.  Nearly all of these families came originally from Georgia. 
The Martin and I think the Byrd families came from North Carolina.  My
relatives, the Mizells, the Edwards, and the Whites, emigrated from Georgia
to Russell (now Lee) County in middle-eastern Alabama and settled in and near
Opelika and Salem, from there they went to Dale County before our family went
there, which was when I was about two years old.  More families came soon
after, and soon it became a thickly settled community.  The Crittenden family
came from Georgia about 1860, and the Ardis family just after the beginning
of the war.  Mr. Ardis had sold his home in Pike County, near Perote,
expecting to go west, but he was prevented from doing this by the outbreak of
the war.  So instead he moved to our neighborhood in Dale County.  He had a
large family and a hundred or more slaves, and it was said that he found it
difficult for a time to get enough for them to eat.  Moving at the time that
he did made it much harder for him.
               The Ardis and the Crittenden families were the two wealthiest
in our neighborhood.  Mr. Ardis had more slaves than any other man in our
community and Judge Crittenden was next in wealth and owned nearly as many
slaves.  Then in the scale came my Grandfather Edwards, my father's father. 
Grandfather Edwards had about twenty-five slaves, my Uncle Amos Mizell had
twenty or more, and several others had almost as many.  My Grandfather
Mizell, my mother's father, owned only one family of slaves when he died in
1858.  He lost most of his slaves when he was a comparatively young man by
standing security for a brother-in-law.  That was an unsafe way of doing
business, but was common at the time.  My father had only one family of
slaves, Henry and his wife, Mary, and their three girls and one boy.  My
father was quite a young man when he married, only twenty years old, and he
was only thirty-two when he joined the Confederate Army.  So he had not had
time to accumulate much property.  Grandfather Edwards gave him the Negro
woman, Mary, and her baby daughter when my father was married, though her
husband, Henry, lived and worked on our farm.  Grandfather gave Henry to us
as a protector when my father left home to join the army.  The Edwards,
Mizell, Crittenden, and Ardis families had the farms in our community, though
there were other farms as well improved and cultivated.  The Crittendens and
Ardis soon became related to us by several marriages, for after the war an
uncle, a cousin, a brother, a sister married into the Crittenden family, and
two of my uncles (Ambrose and Young Edwards) married Ardis girls.
          The ladies of these families dressed well, some in silks and
satins.  I remember Grandmother Edwards was a very dressy old lady.  She
always had a black silk dress, and she nearly always wore that or a fine
white dress when she went to Church or to visit relatives and friends.  She
wore white more of the time in the summer.  Before the war she wore a
mantilla for a wrap when it was cool, and in summer a linen duster.  She was
a very religious old lady, and read her Bible as much as anyone, but she
never outlived the pride of being well dressed.  Grandmother Mizell was also
a good, religious, high-principled woman, but she was so afflicted with
paralysis that she was confined to her home nearly all the time that I can
remember her.  When the war began she could do little but knit, and finally
she became so helpless that she could scarcely walk, and she could not do any
work except pick the seed out of the cotton.  She employed herself at this
much of the time as long as she was able to sit up, but she was confined to
her bed two years or more before she died in 1868.  It was said that the
cotton she picked from the seed by hand was better for spinning purposes than
the cotton that had been ginned.  It seemed a slow and useless work, but she
had always been such an active and industrious woman that she could not be
satisfied to be absolutely idle.
          My Grandfather Edwards had had a limited education for he had poor
opportunities to attend good schools in his youth, but he greatly improved
what education he had by wide reading.  He was a strong minded ambitious man,
and accumulated his property by his industry and good management.  He exerted
a strong influence for good because of his exemplary life and his justice and
good judgement.  My Grandfather Mizell died when I was such a small child
that I do not remember much of him, but from others I know that he was a good
religious, high principled man, and a preacher in the Methodist Church.  Many
years before his death he had been a missionary to the Indians on their
reservation in Russell County, Alabama.  When he died he left my Grandmother
and two unmarried daughters, Adeline and Jane.
          None of our people were wealthy, but almost all these families had
slaves, -some a few, some a hundred or more, and a few who owned none.  But
all moved in the same circle of society, attended the same Churches, and
schools, and all were respected alike.  There were no class distinctions, and
all were treated alike at social gatherings.  Ours was a thickly settled
community.  Scarcely any of the families lived more than a mile from the
nearest neighbor, and many of them were as near as a quarter or a half mile. 
Some of the young people and their elders visited the cities and towns often
enough to keep up fairly well with the fashions, and relatives and friends
from the cities returned these visits.  Some of the wealthier women wore
silks and satins, but most of them dressed in the commoner materials, cotton
or wool, but made with care and taste although the sewing was done almost
entirely by hand.  Only two families in our community had sewing machines
when the war began, but this did not prevent the women and girls from putting
a great deal of work on their clothes.  Some of the ladies almost covered the
skirts of their dresses with ruffles, when that was the style.  many of them
did a great deal of embroidery and other fancy work.  My two maiden aunts,
Adeline and Jane Mizell, did more embroidery than any others that I knew, and
their work was prettier and more intricate.
          Dale County was more recently and more thickly settled than the
central part of Alabama.  The land was more fertile than in eastern Alabama,
and the men were all farmers.  I suppose that was the reason that so many
people left Russell County and went to Dale County during the forties and
fifties.  My Mizell and Edwards grandparents and their families were living
in Russell County at the time of the Indian War in 1836.  One of my uncles,
William Williams, nearly always had several Indians working for him.  These
Indians liked him and his family, and when they knew that there was to be war
with the whites, they warned my uncle and told him that he and his people had
better leave the country.  Grandfather Mizell was a local Methodist minister
and missionary to the Indians.  The Indians had great respect and reverence
for him, they had utmost confidence in what he told them, and often went to
him for advice and counsel.  They told him that they did not want him or his
family ever to be hurt by their people.  So, on the eve of war, they warned
him, too, to leave the country, and my Grandfather Mizell with Uncle William
Williams and other white settlers took their families in wagons to their
relatives in Georgia.  Some of their property they took with them.  But much
of it was left at their homes.  When they returned after all danger was
passed, much of their property had been destroyed and some of their houses
had been burned.  But the Indians had harmed nothing on Grandfather Mizell's
place.  They said that Grandfather was a good man, and that they were afraid
the Great Spirit would be angry with them if they destroyed anything
belonging to him.  I have often heard my mother and my Aunt Jane (both of
whom are still living (1902), relate stories of the Indian War and of the
massacres which occurred when they were small children living in the Indian
country.  They told of the raid on the home of one of my uncles after the
family had fled, when the Indians stuck a dog head foremost into a large jar
of lard and left the animal there.  At the home of another relative the
Indians heaped the feather beds in the middle of a room, built a fire under
the house and left, expecting that the house would burn.  But the fire went
out after it had burned a large hole through the floor.  A short time before
the Indian War began a small Edwards cousin was shot and killed by an
Indian's bow and arrow while the child was on his way to a neighbor's house
with his little sister.  My Aunt told us of hearing of white babies whom the
Indians threw into the air and caught on the points of their knives.
          Westville was a small village in our community and about two miles
from our home.  I think that Eufaula, about sixty miles away, was the nearest
town located on a railroad.  Eufaula and Greenville were the cotton markets
for the Dale County farmers before and for some time after the war.  It
usually took the cotton wagons five or six days to make the trip to market
and return.  They would carry cotton and return loaded with dry goods and
groceries for the Westville merchants.  After the war the railroads were
built nearer and nearer until Central of Georgia and the Atlantic Coast Line
came almost to our doors.
          Grandfather Edwards lived in Westville, as did his son-in-law,
Mordecai White, who soon after the close of the war moved to Autauga County,
Alabama.  Autauga County honored him several years ago by sending him to the
state legislature as their representative.  His wife, my aunt, was burned to
death at her home near Autaugaville by the explosion of an oil lamp, when she
covered the lamp with her dress to prevent the burning oil from being thrown
on her small children.
          The Kennons were a good family that moved from Georgia to Alabama
and lived in Westville.  They were related to us by marriage as my Aunt
Adeline Mizell married Dr. John Kennon in 1869.  The father and one son were
physicians, and all moved to Texas, after the close of the war.  Westville
had only one store, a wood shop, a blacksmith's shop and Dr. Kennon's shop,
for in those days every doctor kept his own drugs.  The tan yard owned by Mr.
Ardis was near by.  The post office at Westville was in the store.  For some
time we had weekly mail, later twice a week, which was carried through the
country on horseback or in buggies until long after the Civil War when the
railroad was built through Ozark, nine miles away.  During the war the mail
was carried on horseback altogether as buggies were not plentiful enough to
be used for that purpose.  The store was kept by my Uncle Mordecai White
until he went into the Confederate Army, then it was kept by another man in
the community.  The merchants bought their goods in the nearest towns where
they sold their cotton,- in Eufaula and Greenville, Alabama, and sometimes in
Columbus, Georgia.
          There were very few poor people in our community, not more than two
or three families that I can remember who did not own their homes.  These
families rented small farms or worked  at the tannery or in the mills, and
all made respectable livings.  There was one worthless man who lived about
three miles from our home and near the Crittenden place.  I think he owned
his little farm, but he was so lazy that he would not work enough to support
his family.  When poor families could not make a living because of sickness
or any other misfortune, they were helped by their more prosperous neighbors.
 Nearly everyone had a good common school education; some went away to better
schools, but few, and none that I can remember ever went away to college, for
that was not considered so necessary as now.  A few who wished to practice
law or medicine went to the cities to study these professions.
          Before the Civil War our people dressed well, and lived
comfortably, and had good schools and churches, but after the beginning of
the war, how different everything was!  I have said that there were no social
classes, but when it came to marriage the young people whose parents were
better educated and were wealthier and owned many slaves seldom married into
families that had less.  Wealth then consisted chiefly of land and slaves.  I
knew one young lady who said she never expected to be married as her father
would nor consent to her marrying the young man she loved because his family
had fewer slaves and less land than her family.  he was a fine young man,
better educated than she was, and her equal in everything except in property.
 But the war with the freeing of the Negroes put an end to this inequality
and she married the young man and with her father's consent.  The young lady
was Joanna Ardis, the only daughter of Mr. Isaac Ardis, the wealthiest man in
our locality, and the young man was my uncle, Ambrose Edwards.  As soon as
Uncle Ambrose came home from the war, he continued to make love to her and as
the Negroes were all freed, her father no longer looked unfavorably on the
marriage.  He gave his consent quite willingly not only to this marriage but
also that of another of my uncles, Young Edwards, to his niece and ward,
Mattie Ardis, the only daughter of his brother who was dead.  These girls
were double first cousins, as their fathers were brothers and their mothers
sisters, and their husbands were brothers.  Mr. Isaac Ardis was guardian of
his brother's children and both families lived near together on the same
          They had a grand double wedding, which surpassed anything we
children had ever seen.  It was a country wedding, and there were more than a
hundred guests.  This took place soon after the close of the war when there
still were plenty of servants, for many of the old servants had not really
left their former owners, and the people did not yet know how poor they
really were.  There were sixteen attendants in the bridal party, and as the
house was not large enough, a kind of pavilion consisting of a wooden
framework covered with white cloth, was built on the large lawn.  There the
tables were spread for the wedding dinner.  The effect was very pretty when
the pavilion was decorated and lighted with candles.  The beautiful table was
loaded with everything good to eat that could be obtained, and syllabub and
eggnog to drink.  Wines were not used on our table, for we were a temperate
people, and no whiskey was sold nearer than five miles away.  But it was the
custom to have syllabub and eggnog on festive occasions.
          These two couples lived in Dale County only one year after their
marriage when they and other Ardis relatives went to Texas.  Uncle Ambrose
Edwards had eight sons and no daughters, who are all grown now.  Two of his
sons were in New Mexico when I last heard from them.  Uncle Young Edwards
remained in Texas until about three years ago when he returned to Dale
County.  His wife had died a short time before, and as he had no children, he
preferred to return to his old home.  He now lives at Enterprise with a
nephew.  His brother, Uncle Walter Edwards, and other relatives live there


          Some of the Dale County people favored secession and some did not,
but the county as a whole voted for it.  My Grandfather, Ambrose Edwards,
Sr., J.C. Mathews, Hayward Martin, and Ben Martin strongly opposed secession
and war, but after the war began they were loyal and did everything in their
power to aid the South.  My Uncles, Mordecai White and Hope Mizell, and Judge
Crittenden favored secession.
          I first realized that a terrible war was about to come upon us when
our men began drilling in Westville, the village near my Grandfather Edwards'
home.  I had father, uncles, and cousins in the first company that was
organized there, so it was with mingled feelings of pride and sadness that we
watched them drill in their handsome new uniforms.  Their leader was Colonel
Brooks, a veteran of some other war- Indian or Mexican, I suppose.  The
company was later Company E, 15th Alabama Infantry Regiment.  Its officers
were captain Esau Brooks;  First Lieutenant William A. Edwards;  Second
Lieutenant, J.F. Jones;  Third Lieutenant William A. Edwards;  Second
Lieutenant, J.F. Jones;  Third Lieutenant, Lon Bryant.  A young man named
Hildebrand was fifer and leader of the band.  This information I got from
Uncle Young Edwards who was a member of this company who is still living. 
This company left Westville, July 15, 1861, with eighty-six men and was
recruited during the war to two hundred and forty.  One hundred and forty of
these never returned.  Of the one hundred who did return, as far as I can
learn, only about thirty are now (1902) living.  Of the eighty-six who first
went into the army, a mess of eight men was formed;  William A. Edwards,
Billy Mizell, Billy Mobley, J.P. Martin, Ben Martin, Young M. Edwards,
Ambrose Edwards, and James R. Edwards.  None of these eight lost a limb, but
all were wounded in some way.  Young and Ambrose Edwards were in prison at
Ft. Deleware.  Ambrose was captured at Gettysburg in July, 1863 and was
released in October, 1864.
          I had heard the older people talk and read much of the prospect of
war, but as I was young I did not understand or realize the horrors of war at
that time.  I did not even think seriously of what it meant until the company
was organized and the ladies of the neighborhood began to make uniforms for
our soldiers.  These uniforms were made of white osnaberg, a heavy cotton
cloth, with blue stripes on the trousers and the jackets.  I remember how I
thrilled with pride and pleasure as we watched our soldiers marching to the
music of the drum and fife, carrying their flag so proudly, and dressed in
their white uniforms.  Before many weeks our company joined the 15th Alabama
Regiment as Company E and was sent to Virginia and served in General Lee's
Army.  That regiment was famous for its bravery and gallantry.  William C.
Oates, who was governor of Alabama long after the Civil War, and who was a
general during the Spanish-American War was Colonel of this regiment.  To get
to the railroads the companies from Dale and adjoining counties marched
through the country to Union Springs, seventy miles away, or to Montgomery,
eighty miles away, or to Eufaula, forty miles away.  From these places they
were sent to Virginia or to the Tennessee Army.
          My father, Leroy M. Edwards, had a wife and six young children to
care for, so he did not leave with the first company but stayed at home
several months so as to put his business affairs in condition for a long
absence.  My three uncles, Ambrose, Young, and William Edwards, and several
cousins left with the first company organized.  They left in 1861 as soon as
there was a call for volunteers.  My father remained at home a few months
longer, then he, too, left us.  He joined Company E, 53rd Alabama Regiment of
the Mounted Infantry.  Such a regiment was sometimes called cavalry, but the
men were armed as Infantry.  The colonel was a M.W. Hannon; the captain was
R.F. Davis; the second lieutenant was John W. Dowling, and my father was
Third Lieutenant.  I do not recall the name of the First Lieutenant.  Jack
Leonard was drummer, and Bill Jones was bugler.  Dowling with some others
organized this company, which left home August 27, 1862, to march to
Montgomery, eighty miles away, where it was mustered into service and became
a part of the 53rd Alabama Regiment.  This regiment belonged to General Jo
Wheeler's Division of the Tennessee Army.  It served for some time under
General Nathan B. Forrest, took part in the pursuit of Colonel Streight, and
later joined General Hannah's Brigade in Dalton, Georgia.  It followed
Sherman in Georgia and South Carolina, and surrendered at Columbia, South
          In 1864, Lieutenant Dowling was wounded by the explosion of a shell
and was permanently disabled for active service.  He returned home and as
soon as he was able he joined the Home Guards, whose duty it was to oppose
invasion at home, to keep order, and to capture deserters.  Shortly after the
close of the war he was located at Ozark, where he became a prosperous
          Lieutenant Edwards, my father, was knocked down and stunned by a
piece of shell, but he was not seriously hurt.  He sent a piece of shell
home, and when I was married in 1873, my mother still had it.  But it was
afterwards lost, probably when my mother broke up housekeeping after my
father's death in 1898.  She had also, for many years, a light colored wool
hat with a bullet hole in it which was shot into it in a battle while on my
father's head.  This hat was probably lost at the same time that the piece of
shell was lost.  Father was taken prisoner twice in the same day during the
fights in 1864 around Atlanta but he escaped each time from his guards.  They
were marching him and another man along a road, the guards mounted and the
prisoners on foot.  When they came to a thick growth of woods by the
roadside, the prisoners darted suddenly into these woods.  The guards shot at
them, but missed them, and they could not follow on horseback, by the time
they had dismounted, the prisoners were so far ahead they could not be
recaptured.  Taken prisoner again, this ruse was again tried and proved
successful.  father said that when in front of Sherman's Army in Georgia he
was under fire for one hundred days.  So he had three very narrow escapes,
but was spared to return home to us stronger and in better health than when
he entered the army.  He lived until 1898 when he died at my home in
Brundidge, Alabama, while on a visit.  He brought home from the war two guns
and a third short one called a carbine, I think, and a sword.
          There were three of my husband's Fleming relatives in the 15th
Alabama Regiment.  Ben Fleming, his oldest brother, was only eighteen or
nineteen years old when he left home with Company E at the first call made
for volunteers.  Colonel Oates, the Colonel of this Regiment, said that Ben
was a good soldier.  He was badly wounded in battle near Richmond in
February, 1865.  The wound was in his arm, the bullet entering just above the
hand and coming out near the elbow.  His hand is drawn and shrunken now from
that wound.  the hospital doctor wished to amputate his arm, but Ben would
not consent to this.  He had been slightly wounded once before, but he did
not return home at all during the war until he received the severe wound in
his arm in 1865.  Then he came home and was unable to return to the army. 
George Fleming, a cousin of my husband, was in the same company and died in
some hospital.  Dawson Fleming, another cousin, was also a member of Company
E.  He was captured at Gettysburg, had a small pox while in prison, and did
not return home until June, 1865.  Dawson had two brothers in the army,
Edward and Tom Fleming, but they were in another company.  Henry, James, and
Jeff Fleming, cousins of my husband, were the only other Fleming relatives
who served in the war that I knew personally.  They all lived in or near
Clintonville, Alabama, and all of them returned home except George.  My
husband William LeRoy Fleming, enlisted during the latter part of 1864 when
he was sixteen years old, and he served until the surrender of the forces in
Florida.  He belonged to the 5th Florida Regiment of Calvary, and at one time
he was sent to help guard prisoners at Andersonville Prison.  There were
other Fleming cousins who went into the Confederate Army from other places
from Georgia and from Louisiana, but I never knew them.  Jeff Fleming married
my cousin, Nettie Mizell, soon after the close of the war and moved to Ennis,
Texas.  Jeff's brother went into the army from Louisiana and was killed.  My
cousins, John Mizell and John Bennett both died in the hospital and Asbury
Bennett, another cousin, was severly wounded.  Our neighbors, John Chalker,
Ben Byrd, Isaac Ardis, and Jake West were killed in battle.
          In the Home Guards were my uncles, Spencer Edwards, Hope Mizell,
and Mordecai White.  My Uncle William Mizell, my mother's brother, enlisted
in the army in Columbus, Georgia, and was killed during the first or second
year of the war.  Members of other Mizell and Edwards families entered the
army from Russell County and from places in Georgia, but I did not know them
          My Uncle Young Edwards told us that the soldier's pay of $13.00 a
month was often paid for one meal, and that towards the close of the war the
soldiers seldom got their pay.  Mr. Yancy L. Bryan, one of our neighbors
after the war, enlisted when he was about seventeen years old, served two
years, and received no pay at all.  He said that on one occasion he was
excused from going into battle because he was barefoot and the soldiers had
to go through a thick briar patch.  He was told by his captain to go to the
rear and do something else.  Mr. Bryan was taken prisoner soon after, and was
sent to Fort Douglas near Chicago, and did not return home until June, 1865. 
He told us that while he was a prisoner some of the officials often tried to
persuade him and other prisoners to take the oath of allegiance to the United
States, and then go to the West to fight the Indians.  But Mr. Bryan refused,
saying that he would remain in prison rather than do such a thing, that he
would fight nowhere but for his own country.  He said that the prison fare
was very dry, but that there was enough of it, and that the prisoners were
well treated.  Confederates who, to escape prison, went to fight the Indians
were called "galvanized Yankees."

Written by:  Mary Love (Edwards) Fleming


          Within a few months after the war our supply of clothes began to
give out.  We lived far from the cities and large towns, and the country
stores never kept large stocks on hand.  All cloth that was suitable for the
use of the soldiers was used up at once and more could not be purchased
except by sending quite a long distance and by paying very high prices.  So
very soon our people had to return to the old way of making cloth at home on
home-made hand looms.  This was slow work, and it was the most tedious of all
of our home duties, and it kept nearly all of the women and girls busy, for
all of them had to do something connected with cloth and clothes making. 
None of our relatives were wealthy enough to have all of this work done for
them.  The Crittenden and Ardis girls did not have to spin or weave, but they
did much of the family sewing.  There were no white servants.  Occasionally a
poor orphan girl was given a home in a family that had no slaves, but she
always lived as one of the family, received no regular wages, and would have
felt insulted if considered a servant.
          At first few knew how to spin and weave.  But my aunt, Mrs.
Bennett, and some of the older women in the Byrd, Martin, and Johnson
families had learned to spin and weave long years before, and they now gladly
taught relatives and all others who wished to learn.  Women from all over
that section of the country went to them to learn how to manage the spinning
wheels and the looms.  Most of these wheels and looms were made at Westville
by a wood workman named Merrit, and an old man who had moved there about the
time the war began.  he made spinning wheels, looms, reels, and other wooden
ware.  He made very nice small tubs and buckets of cedar.  The small tubs
were often used in place of wash bowls, and the little buckets to milk in. 
He also made our wooden churns.
          Wool from our sheep was sent to Eufaula, forty miles away to be
corded into rolls, but the spinning was done at home.  We later sent some of
our wool to be carded to Munn's Mill (or Frazer's Mill, as it was afterwards
called), located twelve miles away on Pea River and now owned by my husband. 
This mill was not fitted up for carding at the beginning of the war.  Thus
enough cloth was made for all to have good clothes, and much was sent to the
husbands and sons in the army.  Mother sent all of my father's clothes to
him, for ours was one of the few farms in that section that kept enough sheep
to supply the family at home with woolen clothes for the winter wear, and to
send woolen things to our soldiers.
          My older sister and I spun thread to make cloth, and we soon
learned to knit stockings and gloves for our own use.  My two older brothers,
Willie and Archie, although only twelve and eleven years old at the close of
the war, had to do light work on the farm along with the negroes.  Before the
close of the war my little sister, Emmie, was large enough to spin her daily
task, and so all of the children on the farm worked except Ambrose, the
youngest, and the smallest negro child.  There were none in our community too
rich to work;  all worked who were not too small, or too old, or too sick.
          During vacation my older sister and I had certain tasks of carding
rolls and spinning every day.  These allotments were enough to keep us busy
nearly all day, if we worked well.  But I did not enjoy this regular work
every day.  The same system was used with the negro women and girls.  They,
too, had tasks assigned to them that would keep them busy the greater part of
the time from day-light until dark, and if these tasks were not completed by
day-light they were finished by candle-light after supper.  But most of the
negroes were cheerful and industrious, and just as respectful and obedient as
they had been before the war began.  One negro woman, Mary, and her
daughters, with the help of my sister and myself, did practically all the
carding and spinning of the cotton, while Mother spun the wool, wove much of
the cotton and woolen cloth for herself and the children, and for Father away
in the army.  There were six of us children and herself and Father and the
six negroes to be clothed and Mother, with the help of the negro woman, Mary,
and occasionally of my aunts, made all the clothes wore by all the family. 
Mother not only spun the wool, and did much of the plain weaving, but did
most of the dyeing and much of the sewing besides the knitting, except what
knitting, was done by Sarah and myself.  I have often wondered since I grew
older how she could do so much, for she was not a strong woman, and her
health was not good.  She paid her widowed sister, Aunt Polly, to weave jeans
cloth, counterpaines, and other heavier cloths.  Aunt Polly had been left a
widow with six children- - three boys and three girls- - before the war
began.  Her two older sons went into the army, but she had a younger son and
two daughters at home.  These girls were very industrious and were the most
expert spinners and weavers in the country.  They could spin and weave more
cloth in a day than any of their neighbors.  They very often did such work
for other families and relatives, and earned enough to live comfortably
except for the long, hard work.  Soon after the close of the war the Bennet
family moved to Texas, except Mary, who married and went to Georgia.
          The wealthiest families had some of the negro women and girls do
the carding and spinning, and others do the plain sewing.  Some of these
negroes could weave well, but few if any of them could do the double weaving
such as was needed in making jeans cloth, dotted goods, and homespun muslins.
 Many white women spun pretty muslins.  They wove the cloth thin in warp and
filling, striped it or checked it, or put dots in it made of bits of bright
colored cloth.  They spun dobled and twisted their sewing and knitting
thread.  Our reels, wheels, and looms, besides those made by Mr. Merritt at
Westville, were made in the country and usually by white men who were exempt
from army service.  When many negroes belonged to a family there would be
negro seamstresses who did sewing for the negroes and plain sewing for the
whites.  So all wore good clothes and had plenty of quilts, which were
usually made from the strong parts of old clothes, except those quilts that
had been made before the war began.
          Usually a room was set apart in which the spinning, weaving,
reeling, and spooling was done.  The warping was done out of doors on
"warping bars."  The spinner ran the thread on broaches, then it was reeled
into hanks on the reel, then dyed (when color was wanted), then the hanks
were put on the winding blades and run onto spools made of the branches. 
When these large reeds could not be procured, long corn cobs were used
instead.  The spools were then placed in the "warping bars" so that the
thread ran off easily.  Enough of them were put in to make the warp of the
cloth.  This was done by taking a thread from each spool and carrying them
together through the hand, placing them on the pegs of the bars and making
the threads the length desired for the finished piece of cloth.  This was
continued in this way until there was sufficient number of threads to make
the width.  This was then carried to the loom, wound on the thread beam, then
each thread was put separately through the harness by hand, then on through
the sleigh in the same way, then tied to a rod which was fastened to the
cloth beam.  All was now ready to begin weaving.  The warping was, I think,
the hardest to learn of all the preparations, and for me, at the time, was
very difficult.  I learned to weave plain cloth about the time that the war
closed, and I helped to weave one piece.
          The working hours for most of the white families and their negroes
was from about four or five o'clock in the morning until dark in the evening,
with short intervals for rest.  In winter nearly all of the families had
finished breakfast and the housework, and were ready to begin other work soon
after daylight.  Then some went to the fields, some to the other chores, some
to the spinning wheels and looms, and others to their sewing and knitting.
          To make jeans cloth for Father's suits, Mother would dye half of
the wool black and leave the other half white, then she sent instructions to
have the wool mixed in the carding.  After the cloth was woven she would have
it made into a uniform for Father-overcoat and all.  My Aunts, Adeline and
Jane Mizell, were expert makers of dresses, coats, and hats, and of almost
everything else that required skill with the needle.  They often made suits
for Father and for other soldiers.  Mother dyed wool bright colors and made
pretty dresses for herself and for her daughters, and nice looking suits for
her boys.  She sent to Eufaula and to Columbus, Georgia, and bought the warp
for all her cloth except made for us at home by a negro.  My brothers, Archie
and Willie, looked like little men in their homespun, home-made suits.
          My oldest sister, Sarah and I were about the same size, and we had
the same tasks to spin every day.  We usually rested a little at noon and
finished before dark.  But sometimes I would get tired of being so confined
to work and would be idle;  then I had to finish my task after supper, which
I thought was very hard.  I thought then that I was lazy and idle, but I
wonder now that we girls worked as much as we did when I see how little work
girls of our age do now.  But we lived in the country with little to distract
our interest from our work.  I remember how tired I used to get sitting so
still and knitting so long with the gnats flying around my face and eyes, but
I could not stop until Mother gave me permission.  Most of the grown women,
when they did not sew or spin, would knit at night until bedtime.  We girls
did not have to work at night, and the negroes worked only at night when they
failed to finish their work during the day.
          Some families in our community continued to weave for two or three
years after the war, and some poor people much longer.  Mother kept her
wheels for years though she did not use them, but along with the looms they
were finally destroyed, burned, I suppose.  When my husband's mother died her
wheel was brought to our home and we kept it and sometimes used it until a
few years ago.  But when we moved from our home in the country, it was left
on the farm.  I intended to send for it, but did not do so and it was lost.

Written by Mary Love (Edwards) Fleming

Copyright  Margie Daniels 1996-2009.  Contact me