Annie Mae Adams Akins Shares her Mother’s Stories about The Aftermath of the War Between the States

by | Feb 9, 2017 | Confederate, Wake

The following is a transcript of a taped interview, recorded in 1985, with my mother, Annie Mae Adams Akins. She shared an account of General Sherman’s troops coming through Willow Spring, North Carolina as told to her by her mother (my grandmother), Annie Eliza Blalock Adams. The daughter of Christiana and Hugh Blalock, Annie Eliza died September 10, 1943 at the age of 87. My mother, Annie Mae, died at the age of 94 on October 27, 1985, only nine months after this story was recorded:

“In April of 1865, my mother, Annie Eliza Blalock, was nine years old when General William Tecumseh Sherman’s army came marching…through Willow Spring. Everyone knew the Northern brigade was coming; stories of their violent actions and foraging…preced[ed] them … The Blalock family heard that the troops would be coming by way of Old Stage Road from Clemons (Clayton) on their way to Raleigh… The Blalock home is about a half mile from Old Stage Road on what is today Hwy. 42, about three miles east of Willow Spring. …

“Having much that they wanted to protect…Annie Eliza and her eight siblings, along with their parents and a few trusted slaves, bur[ied] their possessions and hid the animals. There was an older slave, Atlas, whom they trusted with the burying of the special things—all except [for the gold belonging to] my Grandpa Hugh; he buried that himself. The horses and mules were put in a low meadow near the creek, and the cows were tied in the reed swamp beyond the pasture. William “Bill” Blalock, my mother’s [Annie Eliza’s] brother who was twelve years old at the time and a true rebel, had a colt that he loved and was training. He took additional care to hide him well…They buried the cured hams, sausage, and other meat, as well as the lard from the hog killings. They hid all the produce they had grown: potatoes, dried apples, nuts, dried peas, beans, and also the vegetables they had canned. They even hid the chickens.

When the Union Army arrived at the Blalock farm, the soldiers went immediately to Atlas, the older slave; they told him they were his friends and had come to set him free along with all the other slaves. … They asked Atlas to show them where everything was hidden. Atlas…refused to tell them anything, but there was a much younger slave, Alexander, only seventeen, who was eager to oblige. …Alexander…led them to the horses and mules, showed them where the meat and produce was buried, and…revealed…that Bill’s…colt was hidden in a wooded area near the meadow behind the pasture.

“One of [Sherman’s troops] went to Grandpa Hugh, who was sitting on the front porch watching the proceedings from a distance, …put a revolver to [his] head, and said, ‘Alexander tells me you have some gold and have buried it; tell me where it is hidden, or I am going to shoot you.’ Grandpa Hugh…said, ‘Shoot, I am just as ready to die as I will ever be.’ … Grandpa had never liked displays of emotion, but now he couldn’t hold back the tears; they ran down his cheeks as he considered all that was happening…

“[T]he Yankee soldier did not shoot; he put his gun away and went…into the house [with other soldiers]…They took several feather-bed comforters, clothing, and…my Grandmother Christiana’s hand-knit [sic] gloves. She told the men…that she had taken a lot of time and care knitting those gloves, and she would like to keep them. [They paid] no attention to what she said…

“After rummaging through the property and hanging around for a couple of days, [the soldiers] left with all the wagons…loaded with everything they could carry. They tied feather beds to several of the wagons and split the ticking so the goose down would…fly out. …[Y]elling and shouting, those soldiers raced down the road…All the while, the down drift[ed] out and up as they continued on their north-bound journey. My mother said, ‘The feathers from the eiderdown, or comforters, floated up into the air, and began to slowly twirl around and around, kept aloft by a wind of change…[and] at a loss as to where it might finally settle… Feathers were scattered by [the] wind over the near-by fields and cart paths turning everything in sight an odd and eerie white. It looked as if it had been snowing.’ … Perhaps [they served as] an image of what was happening to a way of life in the Old South.

“Mourning the loss of his beloved colt, Bill set out to overtake the Federal troops. …As the cavalry brigade marched up Old Stage Road…with the horses and…goods from my Grandfather Hugh’s farm, Bill kept up a steady pace behind them. He beg[ed] the soldiers to give him back his foal. They ignored [him]…They traveled the remainder of the day with Bill at their heels…Finally about dusk, Bill became more insistent, beseeching them in the most desperate fashion…Completely exasperated, [the soldiers] relented; they told Bill to take his pony and go. Jumping on his colt, Bill…rode as fast as the…horse could carry him. … [L]ooking back, he could see the troops fading away into the distance toward Raleigh…

“[When] the infantry arrived in downtown Raleigh, they were said to have looked like ‘a wave of the ocean’ as they marched in perfect formation up Fayetteville Street…The Blalock family heard [that] a Confederate soldier, Lt. Walsh of the l1th Cavalry from Texas, shot into the [Union] regiments as they paraded…Lt. Welsh tried to escape, but…he was captured at Crabtree Creek. The order was given by General Sherman for Lt. Walsh to be…hanged where the ladies would not see it. His body was…buried at Oakwood Cemetery in the heart of Raleigh…

“My mother, Annie Eliza said, ‘That year [1865], after Sherman’s army came through Willow Spring, was the hardest we ever had to endure. Since the soldiers didn’t find the cows that were hidden in the swamp, our family practically lived on milk and butter…We did have dry beans that had been saved for planting and a little meat… Our neighbors and relatives also shared some items with us… Grandpa “Jack” Adams, a mile down the road, had tied his meat and produce in trees, and it was not found. He often shared with us from his supplies.

“Atlas, the older slave, a “Freeman” on the Blalock farm, did not leave after the war was over…[H]e was given a place to live, was respected and loved until he died. He was buried there near the…Blalock home that still stands today.”

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