Wednesday, November 14, 2018

3300 Hwy 82 Dunn, NC 28334
P.O. Box 1811 Dunn, NC 28335

(910) 891-5019

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Eyewitness to the Battle

Janie SmithFollowing the Battle of Averasboro, March fifteenth and sixteenth, 1865, eighteen-year-old Janie Smith (July 26, 1846 - August 15, 1882) penned on scraps of wallpaper a letter to her friend Janie Robeson in Bladen County. (Janie Wright Robeson married Edwin T. MacKethan, of Fayetteville, NC.)  Janie, a daughter of Farquhard and Sarah Slocumb Grady Smith, lived at the family plantation house named "Lebanon." She had nine brothers and five sisters who lived to maturity.  One sister died a decade before Gettysburg and one brother died in Texas in 1860. Eight of her brothers served with the Confederate forces.

Janie attended a female seminary at Charlotte, NC, for a period of time, and later became the second wife of Dr. R. R. Robeson, already her brother-in-law.  They lived near what is now Godwin, NC, at a place called Kyle's Landing.  Both are buried in Old Bluff Cemetery.

This letter, which is featured here at the Averasboro Battlefield Museum provides a remarkable glimpse into Janie Smith's chaotic world in March and April, 1865.  The original letter is in the Mrs. Thomas H. Webb Collection at the North Carolina State Department of Archives and History in Raleigh.

The Farquhard Smith's wartime home stands today still occupied by Smith descendants.  This house was a hospital during the battle, where mostly Confederate wounded were treated.  It is said that amputated arms and legs were piled outside after being tossed out windows by surgeons, and blood covered the floor-boards.  After the battle, Union general Henry Slocum made  Lebanon his headquarters.

The two other Smith plantation houses, "Oak Grove" and "The William T. Smith House", also  were used as field hospitals and still stand on the battlefield.  Chicora Civil War Cemetery located on the battlefield is the gravesite of fifty-six Confederate casualties of the battle.

Janie's Letter

Where Home Used to be.Janie Smith's Home

April 12, 1865.

Your precious letter, My dear Janie, was received night before last, and the pleasure it afforded me, and indeed the whole family, I leave for you to imagine, for it baffles words to express my thankfulness when I hear that my friends are left with the necessities of life, and unpolluted (sic) by the touch of Sherman's Hell-hounds. My experience since we parted has been indeed sad, but I am so blessed when I think of the other friends in Smithville that I forget my own troubles. Our own army came first and enjoyed the cream of the country and left but little for the enemy. We had a most delightful time while our troops were camped around. They arrived here on the first of March and were camping around and passing for nearly a week. Feeding the hungry and nursing the sick and looking occupied the day, and at night company would come in and wait until bed-time.

I found our officers gallant and gentlemanly and the privates no less so. The former of course, we saw more of, but such an army of patriots fighting for their hearthstones is not to be conquered by such fiends incarnate as fill the ranks of Sherman's army. Our political sky does seem darkened with a fearful cloud, but when compared with the situation of our fore-fathers, I can but take courage. We had then a dissolute and disaffected soldiery to contend with, to say nothing of the poverty of the Colonies during the glorious revolution of '76. Now our resources increase every year and while I confess that the desertion in our army is awful, I am sanguine as to the final issue to the war.

Gen. Wheeler took tea here about two o'clock during the night after the battle closed, and about four o'clock the Yankees came charging, yelling and howling. I stood on the piazza and saw the charge made, but as calm as I am now, though I was all prepared for the rascals, our soldiers having given us a detailed account of their habits. The pailing did not hinder them at all. They just knocked down all such like mad cattle. Right into the house, breaking open bureau drawers of all kinds faster than I could unlock. They cursed us for having hid everything and made bold threats if certain things were not brought to light, but all to no effect. They took Pa's hat and stuck him pretty badly with a bayonet to make him disclose something, but you know they were fooling with the wrong man. One impudent dog came into the dining room where Kate and I were and said "Good morning girls, why aren't you up getting breakfast, it's late?" I told him that servants prepared Southern Ladies breakfast. He went off muttering something about their not waiting on us any more, but not one of the servants went from here, they remained faithful through it all, with one exception, and Pa has driven him off to the Yankees.
Mr. Sherman, I think is pursuing the wrong policy to accomplish his designs. The Negroes are bitterly prejudiced to his minions. They were treated, if possible, worse than the white folks, all their provisions taken and their clothes destroyed and some carried off.

They left no living thing in Smithville but the people. One old hen played sick and thus saved her neck, but lost all of her children. The Yankees would run all over the yard to catch the little things to squeeze to death.

This is an excerpt from the Janie Smith letter penned shortly after the Battle of Averasboro 1865. The complete letter is available in the Averasboro Battlefield Museum.