Oliver Larkin Stringfield

by | Feb 22, 2016 | Confederate affiliation, New Hanover

Reminiscences of Oliver Larkin Stringfield (1851-1930): “My great-grandfather was a Virginian of Dutch descent, a soldier in the Revolutionary War — married Miss Fellows, of Duplin County, NC. Settled there, raised six children. My grand-father, Joseph, married Miss Powell and settled in New Hanover [now Samson] County, NC, 43 miles above Wilmington. The owner of 87 negroes, to whom he was as kind as to his own children, except that he would sell one of the most stubborn ones when he was in great need of ready money. “My mother’s father, David Jones, lived thirteen miles above Wilmington for years, a State Senator from New Hanover Co. “My father, Peyton Randolf Stringfield, born 1807, was a doctor. My mother, Miss Susan Jane Jones, gave birth to thirteen children, all of whom died before the great Civil War 1861-1865, except sister Ann (S.H. Everitt) and Sue (Mrs. Isaac McGee), brothers J.P. (James Peyton) – D.J. (David Jones) – Joseph Haywood – H.C. (Charles Henry Calhoun) and W.J. (William Thomas). My father and mother were cheerful, yet sad hearts gave these five brothers to help save the honor of the Southern Confederacy. Two of them joined Co. E, 18th NC Carolina Regiment. J.P. and D.J. the other three joined Newkirk’s Cavalry, furnishing their own horses, which left us with only ox teams and mother’s horse Nellie, that we kept hid in the dense swamp. “At Mechanicsville, Lt. J.P. (James Peyton) Stringfield was leading a charge at Moore’s Creek when death came. The other four boys came home, honorably discharged, to the great delight of all our hearts. Father died while all the boys were in the war. Leaving at home mother, little sister Sue and me and the negroes on the place for our protectors. We felt safe in the care of our negroes. Our negroes, the Southern negroes, were not known to molest a white girl or woman during the four years the Civil War lasted. I have enjoyed gazing at the monument erected at Fort Mills, SC in honor of the Southern slaves who protected the ‘defenseless women’ while their husbands, sons and brothers were on the he battlefields. “I was 10 years old when the war began. Well I do remember the bitterness of that war. How we suffered for food and clothing. How good bread did taste. How glad we were to get salt for our rice, that the government gave us to sustain life! No wonder I can give thanks to God from my heart at every meal. I never heard my mother complain at our hard lot, but have heard her praying for her boys who had little to eat. “There were two classes of white people in the South, and only two classes — the slave owners and the ‘poor white trash’ (a name given them by the negroes). Many of the ‘poor white trash’ came to my mother with burdened hearts and distress for loved ones in hospitals. She comforted them and said to me, ‘My boy, whatever you do, don’t respect any person for what they have, but for what they are.’ “What a changed world now! Gen. Sherman’s Army and camp followers have robbed and devastated the whole country. Lee surrendered at Appomatox Court House, Virginia, April 1865. The boys soon came home. The first one to come was Cal (C.H.C). Mother, sister Ann and sister Sue and I gave a joyous welcome. Mother and sisters cried for joy. I laughed and laughed and Aunt Kiz, our old nurse, made haste to the kitchen to make ready for a bath for my lousy, dirty brother. He said ‘Now Kiz what about a change of clothes.’ She said ‘I don’t know, Cal, that good for nothing Sherman has taken every rag you possessed, but I’ll fix you.’ She dressed him in sister’s dress, and a welcome from the family. “Then the negro men’s welcome, their black faces lighted up with joy, began to tell of the devastation of the yankees, and the part they had taken to save us from starvation. Briefly put, our strong negro men had boxed up the meat, and other food, carried the heavy boxes down in the thick woods and carefully buried it. “When the Yankees came they had no talk for us white people. They made haste to get in the backyard where the negroes were standing. The questions they would ask our negroes!! Have these white people any gold? Any jewelry? Any horses? Any food put away someplace? What lies our negroes did tell those yankees! “The great question with the negroes was ‘Are we free now?’ We were as glad of it as they were. We felt we were freed from them. The most devoted Christians in the South were quite willing for them to have their freedom. The day I attended the sale of negroes to the ‘speculators’ was a sad day in my young life. It was akin to the horrors of hell, to my young heart. “Yes, $500 to $1000 each in gold counted out to the owner was not charming to me. To this day — 64 years ago — I recall the heart tears of those who were being sold away from their loved ones, to be taken they knew not where. I had seen my mother and Aunt Kiz go to the same church and sing the same hymns of praise to God. Aunt Kiz and Uncle Tom stayed with us as part of the family and were taken care of in their old age by the Stringfield boys. “April 1865 the Civil War ended. I was then 14 years old. We hired our negroes and others that we had not owned. We had flour to eat that was made out of ‘hard tack.’ By the time it got to us, little black worms were in it. But we had a sieve and to separate them from the flour. This we were glad to get.”

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