The Old Confederate’s Story: Chapter 13 – Heroines of the South

This is the thirteenth chapter to Robert Carden’s story. This chapter discusses the brave women of the South and their endeavours during the War of Northern Aggression.

In Rhea county, Dayton, Tenn., was organized the only Ladies Company in all the land of Dixie. The object of this company was to visit relatives, friends and sweethearts who had enlisted in the several companies from Rhea county, taking them clothing, medicines, and provisions, performing the part of ministering angels. This company was organized in 1862 and was from the most prominent and respected families of Rhea county. Miss Mary McDonald was the captain, Miss Jennie Hoyal first lieutenant, Miss O. J. Lock second lieutenant, Miss R. G. Thomison, third lieutenant and Misses Kate Hoyal, Barbara Allen, Jane Kieth, Sadie Mitchell, Caroline McDonald, Annie Myers, Mary A. McDonald, Margaret Abel and Martha Easley were members.

After the Federals had occupied Tennessee Valley and reduced the women almost to starvation the Federal authorities, on February 5, 1865, sent and arrested all these young ladies who were members of the company and on the 6th day of April, these young ladies were marched by an armed mounted guard to Smith’s Cross Roads, now Dayton; thence in the night were marched to Belle Landing, on the Tennessee river, marching in mud over their shoe tops. Here they were made to wait all night long until an old boat known as the “Chicken Thief” came along when they were placed on board and locked up in the dining room and a guard placed at each door. They were taken to Chattanooga, sleeping on the bare floor. Upon their arrival at Chattanooga they were marched up to the provost marshal’s office like a lot of criminals and required to take the oath of allegiance. Gen. Steadman, who was in charge of the Federal forces, on looking over these young ladies who were among the best of Rhea county, ordered them released and directed that they be served a splendid dinner and then be returned to their homes. He severely reprimanded the inferior officers for having arrested these girls, who were from 16 to 22 years old. Such is war–cruel war. The Yankee officers were generally kind to our women and some of the men were kind but others were very mean to the helpless women.

The following sketches of heroines of the South is by permission taken from “Battles and Sketches of the Army of the Tennessee,” by Bromfield L. Ridley, of Murfreesboro, Tenn. The battle of Nashville gave us a heroine whose name Gen. Hood placed on the Roll of Honor, Miss Mary Bradford, now Mrs. John Johns, appeared when Gen. Thomas’ army was pouring the musketry into us and Hood’s army was in full retreat, rushed out into the thickest of the battle and begged the soldiers to stop and fight.

The famous raid of Gen. Stra?? With two thousand men, near Rome, Georgia, resulting in his capture through the intrepidity of Miss Emma Sausome was an instance of female prowess long to be remembered. Amid the flying bullets thrilled with patriotism she jumped on behind Gen. Forrest and piloted him across Black Creek. The legislature of Alabama presented her land and the people lauded her to the skies.

Another heroine in name only, yet a hero in fact appeared in Gen. Morgan’s tramp on the line of Kentucky and Tennessee, grew to be a terror in that section. The boys, on account of his feminine features and flowing hair use to call him “Sissie.” They dressed him up one day and introduced him to Gen. Morgan as Miss Sue Munday. It turned out to be Jerome Clark, son of Hector Clark, of Franklin, Kentucky, but after this he was known only as Sue Munday. He was a member of the old squadron and on account of the insults heaped upon his family he was a terror to every one who wore the blue that came his way.

At one time in 1863, says Gen. Colman, of the Indian Territory, Miss Press Whitley, aged 19, of Knob-noster, a Federal post in Missouri rode on horseback from her home 60 miles carrying news to the intrepid Quantrell and at another time, when the Federals were at the home of her father, Capt. Wm. Whitley in search of contraband goods, she shot a lieutenant, wounded a private and made her escape. They outlawed her, her uncle was shot from ambush, breaking his under jaw and cutting off his tongue. Miss Whitley rode 20 miles at night, found her uncle, carried him home and hid him in an old well until he had recovered sufficiently to ride away. The Federal authorities banished her from the state.

The old scouts in the west will remember two other heroines through whose aid we were often saved from attack. Miss Kate Patterson, now Mrs. Kyle, of Luvergne, Tenn, and Miss Robbie Woodruff, who lived ten miles from Nashville. They would go into Nashville and get what information was needed and place it in a designated tree or log to be conveyed to us by our scouts. I have often wondered if that diagram of the works around Nashville found upon the person of Sam Davis was not the work of the young ladies, notwithstanding it was the impression that it was stolen from Gen. Dodges table by a negro boy.

But I have a heroine of the mountains who developed in war times, yet on account of her obscure habitation and the bitter heart burnings existing between the two sections so evenly divided that history has not given her the merited fame. I got her record from the Rev. J. H. Nicholds, who lived near her in Putman county, three miles from Cookville, Tenn. Her name was Miss Mariana Gunter; now Mrs. Joseph Harris. Her father, Larkin Gunter, was a southern man, and some bushwhackers claiming to belong to the Federal army, resolved to kill him. One night three of them, Mixwell, Miller and Patton, visited him at their home and told him in the presence of his family that his time had come to die. They took him from the house and in a short time this girl of 17 heard the blows and her old father’s groans, when she rushed to the woodpile, got an ax and hurriedly approached the scene. She killed two with the ax and broke the third one’s arm and he fled in a hurry, but afterwards died from his wound. She then lifted her father up and carried him to the house. Soon he sought and obtained protection from the Federal general at Nashville. She said afterwards that upon hearing her father’s groans she grew frantic and does not know to this good day how she managed it. This is the greatest achievement of female heroism ever recorded and places Miss Gunter on a pinnacle of glory that belongs not only to patriotism but to the grandeur of filial devotion, the tie that stretches from the cradle to the grave, spans the heavens and is riveted through eternity to the throne of God.

They talk of Sheridan’s ride, but let me tell you on one that strips it of its grandeur. The famous run of Miss Antoinette Polk, displaying a heroism worthy of imperishable record. She was on the Hampshire turnpike, a few miles from Columbia, Tenn., when some one informed her of the Federals contemplated raid upon her father’s home on the Mt. Pleasant pike, five miles across, said pike forming an obtuse angle from Columbia. She knew that some soldier friends at her father’s would be captured unless they had notice and in order to inform them she had to go across the angle which was barricaded with high rails and rock fences. There was no more superb equestrienne in the valley of the Tennessee, of magnificent physique and she had a thoroughbred horse trained to do her bidding. She started, her horse leaped the fences like a deer and came out in front of the troopers four miles from her home. They took after her but her foaming steed was so fleet of foot that she got away from them and saved her friends from capture.

– Compiled by Leonard Martinez and originally from the memoirs of Robert C. Carden.