SUBMITTED BY: George E. Vick, Jr.
AUTHOR: Eliza Jackson Casteen
These are stories told to me by my Aunt Cattie Parrott as she remembered the Civil War Days at the Jackson house when she was Susan Catherine Jackson, our father’s older sister. There were many more. – E. J. C.
There was much commotion in the Jackson house the day the Yankees came. “De Yankees are coming! Dey down in the field headed for the house!” The young field hand had spread the alarm and now there were at least fifty people crowded in the hall and sitting room wailing, shrieking and moaning. Someone was outside ringing the farm bell. A dignified, bearded gentleman sat in his wheelchair in the midst of the gathering. He rapped heavily on the floor with his cane and commanded, “Be silent – all of you!” Respect and reverence brought a hush that was even more awesome. Mr. Jackson knew what to do, but fear of the soldiers was overwhelming and there was terror in each face, black and white, as “the Boss” gave directions. He addressed a specific direction to each man nearest him, calling him by name. “See that the smoke house door is locked. Close the cellar door and lock it. Drive the hogs into the swamp. Give the horses and mules lashes and run them away from the lot and stable. Run after the chickens until they scatter in the branch. All of the women and children stay in the house. There is much work for you to do.” Two white-haired house servants were still standing nearby. “Pa” looked at them and spoke gently. “Take all the silver and the blue dishes to the loose step in the garret stairs.”
Then he faced all of the others – family members and members of the household – and admonished them: “Try not to appear frightened. Do not anger anyone but do your best to take care of yourselves. Do not take up arms against the soldiers, and I do not think they will hurt you. Try to be pleasant and agreeable unless your honor is threatened. They have families too – but they could do a lot of harm if we make them angry.”
Everyone turned away – many with puzzled expressions as if they were trying to remember everything that had been said. There was much nudging and whispering as they hurried around making ready.
The soldiers were now coming up the hill and headed straight for the North porch. Grandpa Jackson rolled his chair to the fireplace, where he picked up the huge iron firestick. He then returned to the front door and locked and bolted it. The soldiers were soon knocking on the door. When it was not opened, they beat upon it with the butts of their muskets breaking in a panel. As they forced their way in, “Grandpa” met them with the iron poker raised to strike. He told them in no uncertain terms what he would do to them if they harmed one person of his household. The broken panel is there today – a silent witness to the first outrage ever to occur in the Jackson home.
The officers made themselves at home in the room over the parlor while the soldiers encamped on the hillside. No one knows why there was not more destruction during their stay. One theory is that grandpa’s Masonic plaque hanging over the mantel might have had some bearing.
While the officers were looking around upstairs, one of them found the hiding place for the family treasures. When he lifted the loose step, he saw – not only the silver and china but gold jewelry as well. He found a lady’s petticoat and drawing up one end of it, made a sack and filled it with everything except the china. He took it to the window and threw it to a soldier on horseback who made off with it before anyone could stop him.
A young teacher lived in the Jackson house, and she taught all of the children who lived in the house and on the plantation. She was also a companion and friend to the entire household. As everyone was hustling about doing something, she decided to go down to the cellar and check on the winter’s supply of food and other commodities that were hard to come by. She was placing the key in the lock when three smiling soldiers came around the house. In her desperate effort to distract them, she flirted outrageously with them. She was proud of her apparent success because after a while they lost interest in the cellar door and turned away to join the others. After they left she opened the cellar door and to her dismay found the cellar empty! While she had been talking to the three soldiers, others had broken in the back windows and had completely ransacked the winter’s supply of provisions.
At this time our father was twelve years old, and his dearest possession was a pet drake. While everyone was hiding treasures, he decided to find his drake and put it in a safe place. He found it near the hen house and clutching it close, started toward the house, walking as fast as he could. “Wait boy! Where are you going with that duck?” The voice was low, but the familiar way of speaking brought terror to the boy. He stopped – not turning around to face the man – but said nothing. “I’ll take that duck boy!” Still silence but the duck was held even more closely. Then, to his horror, the little boy saw a long knife, and it was held by a long arm while another long arm reached for the drake. At last young Jess found his voice – “You can’t have my drake, Sir! Take that knife away before you scare him to death!” Either the soldier was a kind man at heart or those eyes of steel stopped him. Anyway, he laughed and turned away, leaving the boy and his drake unharmed.
There are many other stories of the old house as gentle people lived within its walls. There will be many other remembrances as new generations of the Jackson family live there. All of us are warmly receptive to the charms of the youngest descendant. She represents the sixth generation as she grows and enjoys the house and surroundings that must surely seem familiar to her.