Manuscript, 29 August 1915, “Dark Days of the Confederacy,” a memoir penned by Lancaster schoolteacher Annie E. Witherspoon (1850-1923), daughter of lawyer and planter George McCottry Witherspoon, recounts the contributions and struggles of the citizens of the Lancaster area during the fight for Southern independence.
“The Southern women...managed as best they could,” Witherspoon remembers. “I have often seen my aunt Mrs. R.L. Crawford, who had known only the ease & elegancies of life, mount her horse & with one of my brothers for company ride to his plantation & see to the interest of her husband who was fighting in Va. Then too, these good women shared their farms & storehouses, which were full to overflowing in those memorable years, with the wives & children of those who were dependent on their own exertions for a living & who had fearlessly enlisted in the service of their country to fight & even die for the righteousness of its cause.”
While “Lancaster was thought to be a safe retreat” and had become a popular destination for refugees from regions thought more likely to lie in the path of Yankee invaders, it did not escape the ravages of a war waged against a civilian populace. The narrative focuses in large part on the depredations carried out by Union troops under the command of Maj. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick when they occupied Lancaster for six days in February 1865. Witherspoon relates numerous incidents in which private property was carried off or laid waste. “The sole purpose of the Yankee Soldiers,” she asserts, “seemed to be to plunder & destroy....These outrages were done by men who called themselves Soldiers, but there was not a drop of patriotism in their blood.”
“Looking backward thro’ the vista of time,” Witherspoon ends her chronicle, “ we cherish no unkind feeling for those who met us on the battle field, knowing that the God of Battles knew what was best for our own dear South Land! & feel it a sacred duty to teach the children of the South that they could have no nobler heritage than to be the children of the ‘Men who wore the gray.’”