Francis Marion Wilcox Journal
Francis Marion Wilcox Journal
Dawn's fair sweet songsters in their Masters praise awoke us early. Susan soon announced breakfast was ready, we draw up around the tempting food, eating heartily and with bright hopes, move on through a strange county where more than twelve years before we had forded along behind our immigrant wagon as Father moved to Kentucky. We travel through a portion of Russell County today and into Washington County, Virginia. On this day we meet a squad of Rebel soldiers in Rebel Uniform. Uniforms were the new elephant gray, their trousers had black strips running up the leg. Truly they looked pretty well and our only wonder was what color and what kind of clothes does the Union soldier wear. We had never heard. The Rebels were not yet in possession of arms but were soon going to where they could get a chance to aid in destroying the best government on earth and aid in keeping themselves the equal of the southern slave whose labor had degraded there for more than a century. They boasted to us of their superiority and told us that one Southern man could whip at least a half-dozen Yankees and they would now have their independence acknowledges. England and France were going to ratify the Confederate Government, cotton was king and England was going to have her cotton even if she had to take up arms and aid them in the destruction of the Government. And to England's shame, be it said that she indirectly did do the United States more damage than all other European powers, furnishing munitions of war and seizing our vessels. It is time we made them pay the $15,000,000 in damages (when it ought to have been one hundred million).
Her devotion to the enemy, South, was not real. She longed for the destruction of the government that Washington had established. Her expressed friendship then, as now, is hypocritical and her greatest desire was "first after the spoils". Yet in these United States we now have a majority bowing to John Bull, the dictator and willing to do England's bidding even to the destruction of our Republican form of protection and government. We pitted the judgment of these Southern advocates dressed in gray uniforms. Our reading had been of Union sentiment and were just the reverse of those poor misguided Southern soldiers going out to fight for Southern rights. Poor men, thought we, your rights in the interest of Southern slaves are like my own few and far between. They were generally ignorant, poor white men who deemed it an honor to kiss a slave owners hand or be allowed the privilege of his society even for one hour. 'Twas wonderful the magnetism possessed by ownership of but a single slave. I have known one poor old negro wench so to magnify one master and family that an entire neighborhood became to magnetized that they all went voluntarily into rebellion at the first call to aid those fighting for Southern rights. We admired the bravery and heroism displayed by those poor, misguided, self-dependent beings, yet pitied their judgment.
The close of September 19th finds us upon the south side of Clind Mountain, a range of the Allegheny and near Big Moccasin Gap. We find a location and go into camp for the night near a church house where some branch of Southern Methodist held forth at night. Although tired, myself and Will Trivett attended the meeting which was one of exhortation and prayer participated by one and all. Many words of advice are spoken, many a fervent prayer offered, especially for the Southern soldiers who were enlisting to fight for Southern homes and Southern rights. The services continued to a late hour and no doubt some poor Rebel soul heard his father and kind old mother talk and pray that night that never heard them any more. September 20th: We return to camp "Laydown" and soon know mo more until morning when Susan announces that breakfast is ready and we prepare for moving on farther into Dixie. We pass through Abingdon, the county seat of Washington, today a nice town of some four thousand inhabitants. At this town we got our last state bank bill changed and got all silver in exchange. The merchant had great faith in the solvency of the banks of the sunny south, hence his readiness to give silver in exchange.
We look for Father and Old Moike, who more than twelve years before had caused such a loud cheer as we were driving north through this city. They were not here, but upon the courthouse top standing perpendicular was a long flag staff and to it was seen flowing the Stars and Bars - emblem, thought we - oh woe and misery - our thoughts were for once. A shudder came over us. What did it mean - "blood, blood?" an in want monster cried - and we passed on towards the southern part of the city looking eagerly to get our first glance at a railroad which we soon saw but the train was not due or had already gone and no freights were nearer than Glades Springs, some miles away. So we had to content ourselves by hearing the faint whistle of the locomotive far away in the distance. This was a sad disappointment to me who had walked over 100 miles and I must say above all other things I had wanted to see the fast running locomotive the most. Little did Marion think that in less than 30 years he would own the land over which more than a dozen of those Iron Horses would make their daily schedules and become as common as the old familiar long sled yet much more brisk than when he had used old Buck and Berry as his principal means of locomotive power. We had got the money changed, saw the town, beheld the Rebel flag, looked at our railroad, which we may speak of later on and now as we are leaving the beautiful little city, we halt for dinner and an hours rest.
We ate, drink some good water, rest, arise and move onward. The country gets better, farms are larger and slaves more numerous, the Rebels more boisterous. I shall never for an incident of this afternoon's tramp. While passing a rich old slave owner's farm and dwelling house, surrounded by the usual slave cabins, a number of little black, chalk-eyes curly heads climbed upon the top of a tall old-fashioned gate, to the number of eight or ten. The gate was fully ten feet high. When we got opposite the gate with its row of black heads peeping over, Will Trivett and myself made a dash looking angry and uttering some world of apparent anger, for the eager gaze of those directed towards us and at our wagon drawn by oxen - something new to them as they worked mules in that region. The entire negro outfit let all holds go and back they fell, one upon the other, three feet deep, screaming so loud that they aroused their master who asked what was the matter. They cried loud and said, "Here goes some Yankees, Master!" Their master saw us going south and half-heartedly hollered, "Arrest them!" This was funny to me them but later on I learned that the owners of slaves taught the young black children that Yankees would take them off and treat them most cruelly and even these ideas were being instilled into the minds of the older slaves and they too expressed themselves as being afraid of being made captives by Yankees. We, today too, expressed don't wonder why their rotten system fell, but often wonder why it stood so long.
After we scare these negroes off the gate, we traveled on and find ourselves on the waters of the Holston River where we bivouacked for the night. September 21st: After eating, sleeping and eating again at the beginning of a new day, we yoke our oxen, hitch on and start on further into Dixie's land and the farther we go today, the worse the land becomes. Many titles were no doubt in litigation by and between occupants, consisting of Rebels and Union sympathizers. Rattlesnakes, red foxes and wandering bear roaming in search of acorns and ripe persimmons were about. The slave element seemed more scattered as the country became more rough, but we learned in after years that element died out as sentiment for the Union got stronger and after a while many of those residing among those rugged hills donned the blue and battled for the Union.