How to get compensation for damages caused by Sherman’s foraging: Southern Claims from Jasper County GA

In 1860, Caroline “Carrie” Shy was a 41-year-old widow living with seven kids at a farm in Jasper County, Georgia.  Carrie had $48,000 in real estate and property value according the the census that year.  In testimony taken in 1872, Carrie stated, “at the beginning sympathized with the union cause.  Feelings were that the war was wrong – that it was made to gratify the ambitions of Jeff Davis and his followers….”

The oldest male in the house, Peyton Shy, was her 18-year-old step-son. At the start of the war, Peyton enlisted in the 4th Georgia Infantry.  He later transferred to the 3rd Georgia and suffered wounds at Chancellorsville and Manassas Gap in 1863.  The second oldest man of the household, Thomas Shy, who was 16 in 1860, seems to have served in one of the state guard units.  Though she sent a son and a step-son to war (reluctantly), and had several nephews in the Confederate service, she “did nothing to supply them….”   Circumstances kept the war distant from Carrie’s farm, and she must have preferred that state of affairs.

That changed on November 21, 1864.  The war came to her door… and knocked hard.  As presented in her 1872 claim for compensation:

Saw 4 horses, 10 mules, 6 hogs, 500 bushels of potatoes, 2 yoke of oxen and 1 cart, and 6 pairs of wagon harnesses taken.

The property was taken on the 21st day of November, 1864, from the place of the claimant in Jasper County, Georgia, by troops belonging to General Sherman’s army. Knew they were Sherman’s troops because they told claimant they were.  They were dressed in blue clothes….

Carrie’s testimony indicates two young sons and two daughters were present at the time, along with two servants.

One of the officers ordered the smoke-house to be broken open.  Claimant asked to be allowed to unlock the door and they allowed her to do so.  The same officer ordered the stock to be taken. The officer said his order was to take the property for the support of the army.

The mules and horses were in the lot, except six of the mules which had been hid away from the place.  The soldiers came and bridled the stock in the lot, and made two negro boys tell them where the hidden stock was, and then go after it.  When the boys came up with the mules they took them and rode them off.

The oxen were on the plantation and claimant things they sent some of the negroes after them. The first she saw of them one pair were hitched to the cart, the other pair were driven off; the cart was backed up to the potato house and was loaded with potatoes, and driven away.

For this loss, in 1872 Carrie filed for $2870.  To the officer reviewing the claim, Carrie’s statement concerning loyalty to the union was unconvincing.  But the main basis for denial of the claim was ownership. The reviewer complained that no will or documents were provided to demonstrate the transfer of ownership.  Furthermore, “Two of the heirs at least were volunteers in the rebel army.”  In conclusion he wrote, “The whole claim here presented seems but a bundle of false pretenses….”

A fellow Jackson County resident, Obediah Belcher, had his claim for $825, covering three horses, three mules, and 100 pounds of bacon, denied.  In Belcher’s case the reviewer noted, “He had five sons in the rebel army & militia to whom he sent clothes and $100 in Confed. money.”  There was some question as to Belcher’s business dealings with the Confederate army.  And though not mentioned in the file, Belcher did sell fodder to the Confederates as late as May 1864.  The reviewer noted the only witnesses testifying to Belcher’s loyalty was another man also making a similar claim along with a nephew named “Shy” (could it be?…).  In the end, the reviewer concluded, “The evidence wholly fails to satisfy us of his loyalty.”

However, David Langston, who lived in Montecello, had a better case.  Summarizing the details, the officer reviewing his claim wrote:

The claimant was an overseer on a farm during the entire war. He voted for Douglas for President in 1860, and on the union side & made public speeches against secession. He regretted the defeat at Bull Run & rejoiced at the capture of Vicksburg & the final surrender.

A committee of citizens in 1862 ordered him & N. H. Couch to stop expressing union sentiments on pain of being mobbed or tarred & feathered.

Mr. Ambrose Troup, a near neighbor, testifies that claimant lived on the adjoining farm, that he was bitterly opposed secession, and that it was through his influence that witness was kept out of the Confederate army. — Loyalty proved.

But even with that, Langston only received $230 of the $403 he claimed.  Compensation for his two shot guns, bedding, and 400 pounds of salt were not allowed.  (And for what it’s worth, Langston indicated Kilpatrick’s cavalrymen took his bedding.)

Perhaps a lesson here: If you plan to file for compensation in the wake of Sherman’s bummers, avoid mention of any relatives who served the Confederacy.  Make sure you can demonstrate sole ownership of the property, legally.  Keep under wraps any business dealings with the Confederate government. However, threats of tar and feathers play well with the reviewers.

Just some of the stories that arise from the Southern Claims… in this case brought on by events 150 years ago as Sherman’s men marched through Jasper County, Georgia.

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