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HISTORY | DOGS | HOME | FOOD | GARDEN

Carysbrook

The family fled in 1862 Carysbrook in Fluvanna County, 50 miles west of Richmond.

We made our way to Richmond and thence to Fluvanna. Henceforth Carysbrook was our dependence. And very fortunate we were to have such a refuge. The enemy did not reach us there till March of ‘65, and in every respect the plantation was well adapted to be a wartime home. We had always despised it in comparison with Eagle Point, but its virtues were soon appreciated. Without the luxuries and refinements of the old established home, it was yet comfortable, abundant in productions and rich in resources.

It was a tobacco farm by rights, but all its powers were devoted to food now. No more tobacco was raised until after the war. Corn, wheat, oats, grass and sorghum were the field crops – with all the stock which the plantation could support. Here we soon got down to real confederate life, everything being devoted to sustaining the army and the government, and nearly everything used being produced on the place. The horses and mules were shared with the government, the corn and the hay was continually being turned over to the quartermasters, meat and grain to the commissary officers.

In those scarce Confederate times, he measured out my loads to me and required a strict account at the end of the day. To increase my chances I used to divide my loads, supplementing my supply of caps with musket caps, and take such scandalous advantages of the game as I do not care to put down!

Father’s household was overflowing throughout the whole war. One or more of his own married daughters and their children were always at Carysbrook. Friends and kin who were in the service or were sick or wounded and often members of their own families who had come to them from Gloucester, Williamsburg, Winchester, Fredricksburg, Alexandria and other parts of Virginia as well as from Georgia, South Carolina and Louisiana were our guests for weeks or even months. I recall Tom Tucker, Harry Bryan, Jim Proctor, and our own St. George and Joe among the wounded, and I do not even remember the names of dozens of poor fellows from many states who father brought with him from the hospitals in Richmond and elsewhere.

He came back from the hospital at Palmyra one day bringing a man who had distinguished himself by beating some fellow with his crutch for speaking discouragingly of the confederate cause. His name was Spath, from Louisiana. He had been a Mississippi pilot before the war and had lost a leg in the army, but he stood ready to maintain the cause against all comers, so Father brought him to Carysbrook as a reward of his pluck and his principles, and to keep the peace.

He was by no means particular who he brought, sometimes nice gentlemen as Mr. Polk or Thomas from Maryland, but often three or four poor broken down fellows whose only attraction was their wounds and their confederate gray. With their wounds and sometimes uncleanly habits and unsavory ways they were somewhat of a trial to the nicer portion of the household, but never mind that, they had everything the plantation could give to supply their wants. I found them delightful, for if they were full of camp itch, they were full of tales of the camp and the battle and as soon as they could drag themselves around they were ready to go fishing or straggling about the fields with me.

Often they were mere boys. I remember two little fellows who were under sixteen. One of them was a lad from Hampton, Virginia, severely wounded at the time, and the other was Jamie Dennison of Louisiana, afterwards killed at Malvern Hill. Our house was a refuge and a hospital for four years.

Father was a great patron of home manufacture in those days. Very little except iron and salt was imported to the plantation. Salt was so scarce and so precious that it used to be kept locked up in the county jail. The heads of families and plantations were allowed to buy according to the number of souls they represented. Once when salt could not be had for the stock, Father actually bought some condemned salt beef and had it chopped up into bits and fed to the cattle. And they were glad to get it.

Homespun fabrics of all sorts were the order of the day. And such clothes, such hats and such shoes as we had were a curiosity to see. Wooden bottom shoes – willow was preferred – were very common. They were very dry and much lighter than one would suppose. Old Elijah used to make the bottoms, and protected the soles and heels with very neat iron rims. Their chief objection was that they were very noisy and carried a good deal of dirt.

GrandPa Cocker, the venerable General Hartwell Cocke, who died in ‘66 nearly eighty-six years old, went a step farther and got patterns of the instruments with which the French sabots were made. Then with his excellent work men, he first made the instruments and then the sabots in great number and variety of sizes. It was nice and interesting work and went on well till the time came for the shoes to be worn. There the scheme broke down. No one could not be got to wear the wooden shoes. So they remained in profusion about the house and shop, a monument to the general’s misdirected ingenuity. Here is one of pair he gave me hanging on my study wall now, with his last effort to utilize them inscribed on the top: “Expedient for spitting boxes.” So he wrote and handed them to me with the direction, “Fill them with sand, my son.”

The wool hats made nearby in Fluvanna were especially characteristic. They were all about the same size and color, and had an irresistible disposition to take the sugarloaf shape – with this advantage that then they would fit any head, it being only necessary to let the hat come down on the head until it fit close, then turn up the rest for brim.

Sometimes when the cone shape did not prevail, they would suddenly and irrecoverably spread out into something like a shallow wash basin, and then there was no doing anything with them. we had also very good straw hats made all about the country – the favorite style being quite a pretty plait called “rough and ready.” Our old tailor Wakeham in Columbia soon learned to make what were considered stylish hats out of remnants of cloth.

As if to go at once to extremes, Father had some cloth made of cowshair and cotton mixed, and I had a suit of it, which nearly wore me out. It was sack cloth of the severest type. But then those were the days when a boy could have all the stripes down his breeches leg, brass buttons on his jacket and feathers in his hat that his heart desired, with no end of old trapping for horse and man, and likely enough an old artillery or cavalry horse on furlough, which knew the click of a firelock and would dash off at the sound of a shotgun in a most exciting manner. There was plenty of sport for boys in confederate times, with a good hope of more to come.

Beets and sorghum supplied the place of sugar in all forms. There was a little tea, a little coffee, and a little sugar kept for sickness, but ordinary mortals saw nothing of these things. I can see little Bryan Page looking lovingly at some sugar which was being carefully hoarded and saying, “Aunt Tucker are these war times?”

“Yes, my son,” promptly replied his inexorable Aunt, “These are war times.”

And I remember two years later seeing Sheridan’s men crush that same sugar under the heels of their boots, a picture in little of the struggle of the end. Next

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History | Dogs | Home | Food | Garden

 

NOTES ON
JR BRYAN'S LIFE

By Corbin Braxton Bryan

Eagle Point

Contents:
Early Life
Eagle Point
Carysbrook
War Times

 

Old Photographs:
Eagle Point
Abingdon Church