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Lancaster County SC Genealogy

Allison Chance's Account

by Louise Pettus

Allison Chance of Lancaster, 20, was a printer for the Lancaster Ledger in February 1865. The last week of that month, he was also an eye-witness to events surrounding the occupation of the village by federal troops from the west wing of Sherman's army.

Gen. Judson Kilpatrick's unit of somewhere between 75 and 100 men arrived in Lancaster on the 23rd. Kilpatrick is usually described as immoral and undisciplined, a man who had no sympathy for the plight of civilians in his path. Even William T. Sherman called him a "Damn fool."

Every house in Lancaster was searched, and its valuables taken. The citizens of Lancaster were not taken completely by surprise. For several days prior to Kilpatrick's arrival, refugees from Fairfield and Richland counties, fleeing ahead of Union troops, had been passing through Lancaster. The told the people of Lancaster of atrocities and advised them to hide or bury everything they could.

A group of elderly men and boys were formed to carry away articles of value from Lancaster and find a hiding place in the woods north of town. Chanced joined the group headed by the "old men," Col. H.R. Price, who had once headed the Lancaster Militia,, Maj. A.J. Belden, James R. Lark, J.B. Boyd, and a veteran of the war with mexico, James F. Barr.

Wagons and teams were gathered up and loaded, somewhat haphazardly, with clothing, meat, bedding, etc. Colonel Price also had a numbers of guns and ammunition left in his care by the head of the state troops when they had passed through Lancaster a few days before. After loading as many of the guns into a borrowed wagon as he could, Price ordered that the remainder guns be made "unfit for service by breaking them against trees in the court house yard."

The old men and boys left at dawn about six hours before the arrival of Kilpatrick's forces. A spot about 3 1/2 miles northeast of Lancaster was selected. For three days, the anxious group was undisturbed, but exceedingly anxious about the fate of the people of Lancaster.

Colonel Price, Major Belden, and James Lark decided to set out for Lancaster to see for themselves what had happened. They were promptly captured by 10 or 12 foraging Union troops.

Allison Chance described the encounter this way: "On being questioned as to the cause of their presence, they said that they were residents of Lancaster and that they had a camp for the purpose of saving something. Suiting the occasion to the answers received, they were ordered to right about face and show the way to the camp."

The marauders forced Price, Beldon and Lark to go at a rapid pace. Chance continued, "After pillaging the camp, taking everything they wanted, they even searched our pockets, leaving not even a toothpick in the crowd."

Matters got rough. Union soldiers, using their guns, hit Chance and his friends on their heads and threatened them with hanging if they didn't reveal other hiding places. After a thorough search, the "bummers" failed to find anything else and left.

The next morning, the Yankees were back and beat them again. Chance particularly felt sorry for old Mr. Barr. When Barr was struck on the head, his wig and hat fell to the ground. The Union man ground the hat and wig into the ground with his heels. During the Mexican War, barr had been, Chance wrote on another occasion, "the second man to scale the walls of the city of Mexico in the wake of his commanding officer, Colonel Dunnovant of the Palmetto regiment."

On the way back to Lancaster, Chance's group encountered two of Kilpatrick's cavalrymen who rescued them from their marauding fellow soldiers.

As Chance came back into Lancaster, he witnessed 10 or 12 of Wheeler's Cavalry attack "40 or 50 Yankees," who abandoned a large number of knapsacks filled with plunder, spurred their horses, and fled the town.