Iris L Cook District #4
STORY OF GEORGE MORRISON
25 East 5th St., New Albany, Ind.
Observation of the writer
(This old negro, known as "Uncle George" by the neighbors, is very
particular about propriety. He allows no woman in his house unless
accompanied by a man. He says "It jest a'nt the proper thing to do",
but he came to a neighbors for a little talk.)
"I was bawn in Union County, Kentucky, near Morganfield. My master was
Mr. Ray, he made me call him Mr. Ray, wouldent let me call him Master.
He said I was his little free negro."
When asked if there were many slaves on Mr. Ray's farm, he said,
"Yes'm, they was seven cabin of us. I was the oldes' child in our
family. Mr. Ray said "He didn't want me in the tobacco", so I stayed at
the house and waited on the women folk and went after the cows when I
was big enough. I carried my stick over my shoulder for I wus afraid of
"Mr. Ray was always very good to me, he liked to play with me, cause I
was so full of tricks an' so mischuvus. He give me a pair of boots with
brass toes. I shined them up ever day, til you could see your face in
"There wuz two ladies at the house, the Missus and her daughter, who
was old enough to keep company when I was a little boy. They used to
have me to drive 'em to church. I'd drive the horses. They'd say,
'George, you come in here to church.' But I always slipped off with the
other boys who was standing around outside waitin' for they folks, and
"Yes, ma'am, the War sho did affect my fambly. My father, he fought for
the north. He got shot in his side, but it finally got all right. He
saved his money and came north after the war and got a good job. But, I
saw them fellows from the south take my Uncle. They put his clothes on
him right in the yard and took him with them to fight. And even the
white folks, they all cried. But he came back, he wasnt hurt but he
wasent happy in his mind like my pappy was."
"Yes ma'am, I would rather live in the North. The South's all right but
someways I just don't feel down there like I does up here."
"No ma'am, I was never married. I don't believe in getting married
unless you got plenty of money. So many married folks dont do nuthin
but fuss and fight. Even my father and mother always spatted and I
never liked that and so I says to myself what do I want to get married
for. I'm happier just living by myself."
"Yes Ma'am. I remember when people used to take wagon loads of corn to
the market in Louisville, and they would bring back home lots of
groceries and things. A colored man told me he had come north to the
market in Louisville with his master, and was working hard unloading
the corn when a white man walks up to him, shows him some money and
asks him if he wanted to be free? He said he stopped right then and
went with the man, who hid him in his wagon under the provisions and
they crossed the Ohio River right on the ferry. That's the way lots of
'em got across here."
"Did I ever hear of any ghosts. Yes ma'am I have. I hear noises and I
seed something once that I never could figger out. I was goin't thru
the woods one day, and come up sudden in a clear patch of ground. There
sat a little boy on a stump, all by his-self, there in the woods. I
asks him who he wuz & wuz he lost, and he never answered me. Jest
sat there, lookin at me. All of a sudden he ups and runs, and I took
out after him. He run behind a big tree, and when I got up to where I
last seed him, he wuz gone. And there sits a great big brown man twice
as big as me, on another stump. He never seys a word, jest looks at me.
And then I got away from there, yes ma'am I really did."
"A man I knew saw a ghost once and he hit at it. He always said he
wasn't afraid of no ghost, but that ghost hit him, and hit him so hard
it knocked his face to one side and the last time I saw him it was
still that way. No ma'am, I don't really believe in ghosts, but you
know how it is, I lives by myself and I don't like to talk about them
for you never can tell what they might do.
"Lady you ought to hear me rattle bones, when I was young. I caint do
it much now for my wrists are too stiff. When they played Turkey in the
Straw how we all used to dance and cut up. We'ed cut the pigeon wing,
and buck the wind [HW: wing?], and all. But I got rewmaytism in my feet
now and ant much good any more, but I sure has done lots of things and
had lots of fun in my time."
STORY OF NANCY WHALLEN
924 Pearl St.
New Albany, Ind.
Nancy Whallen is now about 81 years of age. She doesn't know exactly.
She was about 5 year of age when Freedom was declared. Nancy was born
and raised in Hart County near Hardinsburg, Kentucky. She is very hard
to talk to as her memory is failing and she can not hear very well.
The little negro girl lived the usual life of a rural negro in Civil
War Time and afterwards. She remembers the "sojers" coming thru the
place and asking for food. Some of them camped on the farm and talked
to her and teased her.
She tells about one big nigger called "Scott" on the place who could
outwork all the others. He would hang his hat and shirt on a tree limb
and work all day long in the blazing sun on the hottest day.
The colored folk, used to have revivals, out in the woods. They would
sometimes build a sort of brush shelter with leaves for a roof and
service a would be held here. Preachin' and shouting' sometimes lasted
all day Sundays. Colored folks came from miles around when they
possibly could get away. These affairs were usually held away from the
"white folks" who seldom if ever saw these gatherings.
Observation of the writer.
The old woman remembers the Big Eclipse of the sun or the "Day of Dark"
as she called it. The chickens all went to roost and the darkies all
thought the end of the world had come. The cattle lowed and everyone
was scared to death.
She lived down in Kentucky after the War until she was quite a young
woman and then came to Indiana where she has lived ever since. She
lives now with her daughter in New Albany.
Dist 4 Floyd Co.
THE STORY OF ALEX WOODSON
905 E. 4th St.
New Albany, Ind.
Observation of Writer
Alex Woodson is an old light skinned darkey, he looks to be between 80
and 85, it is hard to tell his age, and colored folks hardly ever do
know their correct age. I visited him in his little cottage and had a
long talk with him and his wife (his second). "Planted the fust one."
They run a little grocery in the front room of the cottage. But the
stock was sadly run down. Together with the little store and his
"pinshun" (old age pension) these old folks manage to get along.
Alex Woodson was born at Woodsonville, in Hart County, Kentucky, just
across Green River from Munfordville. He was a good sized boy, possibly
7 years or more when "Freedom wuz declared". His master was "Old Marse"
Sterrett who had about a 200 acre place and whose son in law Tom
Williams ran a store on this place. When Williams married Sterretts
daughter he was given Uncle Alex and his mother and brother as a
present. Williams was then known as "Young Master."
When war come Old Master gave his (Woodson's) mother a big roll of
bills, "greenbacks as big as Yo' arm", to keep for him, and was forced
to leave the neighborhood. After the war the old darkey returned the
money to him intact.
Uncle Alex remembers his mother taking him and other children and
running down the river bank and hiding in the woods all night when the
soldiers came. They were Morgan's men and took all available cattle and
horses in the vicinity and beat the woods looking for Yankee soldiers.
Uncle Alex said he saw Morgan at a distance on his big horse and he
"wuz shore a mighty fine looker."
Sometimes the Yankee soldiers would come riding along and they "took
When the War was over old Master came back home and the negroes
continued to live on at the place as usual, except for a few that
wanted to go North. Old Master lived in a great big house with all his
family and the Negroes lived in another good sized house or quarters,
all together. There were a few cabins.
"Barbecues! My we shore used to have 'em, yes ma'am, we did! Folks
would come for miles around. Would roast whole hawgs and cows, and
folks would sing, and eat and drink whiskey. The white folks had 'em
but we helped and had fun too. Sometimes we would have one ourselves."
"Used to have rail splittin's and wood choppins. The men woud work all
day, and get a pile of wood as big as a house. At noon they'd stop and
eat a big meal that the women folks had fixed up for em. Them wuz some
times, I've spent to many a one."
"I remember we used to go to revivals sometimes, down near Horse ave.
Everybody got religion and we shore had some times. We don't have them
kind of times any more. I remember I went back down to one of those
revivals years afterwards. Most of the folks I used to know was dead or
gone. The preacher made me set up front with him, and he asked me to
preach to the folks. But I sez that "no, God hadn't made me that away
and I wouldn't do it."
I've saw Abraham Lincoln's cabin many a time, when I was young. It set
up on a high hill, and I've been to the spring under the hill lots of
times. The house was on the Old National Road then. I hear they've
fixed it all up now. I haven't been there for years.
After the war when I grewed up I married, and settled on the old place.
I remember the only time I got beat in a horse trade. A sneakin' nigger
from down near Horse Cave sold me a mule. That mule was jest natcherly
no count. He would lay right down in the plow. One day after I had
worked with him and tried to get him to work right, I got mad. I says
to my wife, Belle, I'm goin' to get rid of that mule if I have to trade
him for a cat. An' I led him off. When I came back I had another mule
and $15 to boot. This mule she wuz shore skinny but when I fattened her
up you wouldn't have known her."
"Finally I left the old place and we come north to Indiana. We settled
here and I've been here for 50 years abourt. I worked in the old
Rolling Mill. And I've been an officer in the Baptist Church at 3rd and
Main for 41 years."
"Do I believe in ghosts" (Here his second wife gave a sniff) Well ma'am
I don't believe in ghosts but I do in spirits. (another disgusted sniff
from the second wife) I remember one time jest after my first wife died
I was a sittin right in that chair your sittin in now. The front door
opened and in come a big old grey mule, and I didn't have no grey mule.
In she come just as easy like, put one foot down slow, and then the
other, and then the other I says 'Mule git out here, you is goin
through that floor, sure as youre born. Get out that door.' Mule looked
at me sad-like and then just disappeared. And in its place was my first
wife, in the clothes she was buried in. She come up to me and I put my
arms around her, but I couldn't feel nothin' (another sniff from the
second wife) and I says, "Babe, what you want?"
Then she started to git littler and littler and lower and finally went
right away through the floor. It was her spirit thats what it was.
("Rats" says the second wife.)
"Another time she came to me by three knocks and made me git up and
sleep on another bed where it was better sleepin'."
"I like to go back down in Kentucky on visits as the folks there wont
take a thing for bed and vittles. Here they are so selfish wont even
gave a drink of water away."
"Yes'm the flood got us. Me and my wife here, we whet away and stayed
two months. Was 5 feet in this house, and if it ever gets in here agin,
we're goin down in Kentucky and never comin' back no more."
The old man and his wife bowed me out the front door and asked me to
come back again and we'ed talk some more about old times.
a Folk History of Slavery in the
United States From Interviews with Former Slaves, North Carolina
Narratives, Vol. XI, Part 2. Vol. XI, Publ. 1941. The Federal Writer’s
Project, 1936-1938. Library of Congress. Contributed by Kim
More Slave Stories
„Treat Everybody Right And Serve the
By CLIFF ROBINSON
Courier-Journal & Times Staff Writer
Louisville Times 02 March 1970
Through one window of her sitting-room, Mrs. Amanda Frances Ross
frequently gazes across the fields and Silver Creek to the site of her
birth 102 years ago in Clark County.
Through another window she looks out on a small family cemetery –
perhaps 100 feet away – where she says she may be buried. This is a
Ross family burial plot. Some of her husband‟s kin are buried there.
Only a few miles away is another Ross family cemetery, where her
husband is buried. But, she said, that one is filled. Mrs. Ross lay
down her Bible and gazed across the fields.
“If it weren‟t for the trees I could see the ground where the old log
house used to stand,” she said. “It has been gone for years. I think it
Mrs. Ross, probably the oldest resident of Floyd County, lives in a
small rented house on the Payne-Koehler Road, near New Albany. She has
spent most of her life in Floyd County, and her entire life within a
radius of a few miles.
Father Was A Slave. Her father, Thomas Henson, born a slave in
Kentucky, moved his family to Indiana into the two-story log house
where Mrs. Ross was born on Valentine Day, 1868. Andrew Johnson was
She was a young girl when the family left the log house and settled on
a farm near the County Line Road in Floyd County. There were nine
children in the family – seven “whole” as she expressed it, and two
“Only my baby brother (John Henson, Indianapolis) is left besides me,
and he‟s up in his 80s. I often wonder if he‟s going to leave me here,”
she said, a note of resignation in her voice.
Her father‟s farm lay next to the Ross farm, and it was along the fence
line that her courtship with Harry Ross began. She was attending old
Jacobs Chapel School.
“My father wanted me to be a schoolteacher, but my mother put me to
work around the house after common school, and so I just got married,”
she said, smiling. She said she was 14 or 15 when she married. Her
husband, she said, claimed he was 21. But she said she didn‟t know.
They established their own home near the county line. One child was
born of the marriage – a daughter, Edith Iola Ross, who died in infancy.
When her husband died years ago, Mrs. Ross disposed of her home and
moved in with her brother, the late Robert Henson, in the house in
which she now lives. When her brother died, she stayed on.
Mrs. Ross spends her days mostly with her memories and her Bible and,
as she puts it, “piddling around the house.” She does her own washing,
ironing and cooking, and confided, with a chuckle, she sticks with the
For example, she does her washing in a tub on an old-fashioned
washboard, even though she has a new electric washer. It might as well
have remained in the shipping carton. She has never used it. Likewise,
she said a handsome punch bowl and cups providing the centerpiece for
an aged buffet are gathering dust. They were a gift to her. She said
she‟d never had an occasion to use them.
Kerosene Lamp Is Used. The house is heated by coal and wood stoves, and
a kerosene lamp lends a generations-old air to the kitchen table. She
is sparing about electricity. She says her small welfare check doesn‟t
“But the Lord has been good to me,” she said. She reads her bible
without glasses, and still has most of her own teeth. Her hearing is
slightly impaired, but she said she has enjoyed good health since
childhood. “Nothing hurts me at all.”
But she has no formula for a long life. “No, I don‟t give it much
thought,” she said. “You‟re what you are. Just treat everybody right
and serve the Lord – that‟s the main thing – and do what he asks.
You‟ll get along all right.”
Her World Is Small. She has few observations to offer on what goes on
beyond her small world. “Lots of people worry about the war, but I
don‟t like worrying much. What‟s going to be is to be,” she said,
gazing out the window.
Mrs. Ross said she has no thoughts or opinions on the racial problems.
“I‟ve always been treated well by both the white and the black races.”
After 102 years, the only things she owns are the meager possessions in
her home. Even the house, which belonged to her brother, is owned by
someone else. She said her brother offered it to her before his death,
but she didn‟t want it.
She sat down with her Bible again and patted it. “Just do what the Lord
asks you to do,” she repeated.
Mrs. Ross seldom misses church at Howard Chapel in New Albany, although
she has to depend on others for transportation. It disturbed her that
she had missed a recent Sunday because she had no way to get there.
I had noted a rifle shell on an ash tray I had been using, and a rifle
leaning against the wall at the front door. I asked her if the shell
was alive. She said it was very much alive. “And I can handle that,
too,” she chuckled, pointing to the rifle. “That‟s there for my
protection.” “Have you ever used it?” I asked. “No, not yet,” she
LAURA: AN UNFORGETTABLE WOMAN
by Earl Hedden
In a little log cabin down in the Kentucky hills, come cotton pickin‟
time in the year when “Mr. Linkum” was elected President, there was
born to a slave couple a pick-a-ninny daughter. They called her name
Laura. That pick-a-ninny was destined to become in later years a
wonderful mother and to have an influence over many people. When she
was but a few years old her “Pap” and “Ma”, as did so many other
liberated slaves at that time, brought the family across the Ohio river
into Indiana. They settled down on Vincennes street near the river. Pap
got himself a job gardening for old man Marschel, and Ma and Laura did
the cooking for the family of Davey Hedden. When Laura grew old enough
she married John Woods, and in the years following she gave birth to
six children – Mayme – Jack – Horace – Estella – June and “Little
Old John was not a man to stand up to his responsibilities and he was
not of a mind to look after a family of that size. So one summer
evening, when the B&O slowed up for the Vincennes street crossing,
he told the corner loafers goodbye and hopped a freight car; and, so
far as his family was concerned, he was gone forever. He left Laura
with the family to care, and though through the years she forgave him
she never could quite forget him. Occasionally, in the newspapers she
would read “Unidentified Negro found dead beside the railroad tracks” –
maybe down in Tennessee – maybe near Pittsburg – she would always sigh
and wonder if that was her John.
To support the children she had to work. At first she took in washing.
Later that proved too heavy for her and she had to give that up as she
had “misery” in her back. It was then she came to our house as our
cook. She was a familiar figure along Vincennes street for years –
helping every one that called on her for help. Rising before daylight,
she would feed her own brood, and then, traipsing through snow or
slush, in fair weather or foul, she would wend her way toward our
house, and by the time we, who were more favored than
others, came down to breakfast she would have a warm fire going in the
kitchen range and have batter-cakes and bacon ready for us. After our
noon meal she would be going home to gather her own children in after
school, get their supper, and then back to prepare our evening meal.
Never did anything seem too much trouble for her to do for us. One
might have thought we were her own children. If we were late to an
evening meal she would wait for hours in order to keep our dinner warm,
and our own mother could not discourage her in doing it.
Shortly after she came to cook for us, her brother‟s wife died and left
an orphaned girl – no other woman to look after her. Laura gathered the
child in and from that time on Corabelle was one of her own children. A
little later a lewd “nigger” woman, (I do not apologize for using that
word), a bar-fly frequenting the dives and saloons in that section of
our town, died and left homeless a nameless waif scarcely four years
old. Laura insisted that the saloonkeepers who had brought the woman to
that sad state should bury her. No one wanted the girl child, and so
Laura‟s wonderful instinct of motherhood asserted itself again, and
Buzetta was gathered under her wings with her other chicks.
As the children grew older, sorrow came to the mother-heart. Mayme, the
oldest daughter, took down with “consumption” and died, and Laura
mourned her first-born. Yet her trust in the Lord was not shaken. “The
Lord give her to me, and He took her, and I bless His name.” One day
they called our house and told Laura to come home right away – June had
been in a fight with another Negro and was killed. “He wasn‟t a bad
boy” was all that she would say. Horace had run away from home some
years before, when he was scarcely full grown. “Gone to find his Pap I
guess”, she would say as she turned away to hide a grief that was
almost unbearable. For fifteen years she heard nothing from him.
We always gave her our cast-off clothing for her children to wear -
this week it might be a coat – next time probably a pair of shoes or a
hat. I well remember a morning, as she served us batter-cakes and
bacon, a knock came at the dining-room door and the Probation Officer
appeared in the doorway. He held in his hand a hat which we could not
but recognize. With a twinkle in his eye he said, “Mr. Hedden! Where
were you last night about ten o‟clock? Do you recognize this hat?” The
Officer went on, “The man who wore that hat last night assaulted two
white women and one of them grabbed his hat when he ran”. We heard a
dish of batter-cakes fall to the floor. “It must-a-been my boy Jack”,
Laura sobbed as she covered her face with her apron. Because he was
already on “probation” they sent him to the penitentiary that time, and
Laura‟s cup of grief was full almost to overflowing.
Some days afterward I sat at the piano strumming an accompaniment and
singing “My Old Kentucky Home”. As I finished the last stanza I
realized that Laura was standing nearby. “Will you say them last words
again, for me”, she said. And so I repeated: “The head must bow and the
back will have to bend Wherever the darky may go: A few more days and
the troubles all will end In the field where the sugar-canes grow. A
few more days for to tote the weary load No matter, „twill never be
light, A few more days till we totter on the road Then My Old Kentucky
Home, good night.”
As I wiped a tear from my own eye she turned away without a word,
filled to the brim with emotion. But just as Job, that old servant of
God, was not tried to the breaking point, so with this servant mother.
From that time on the clouds seemed to rift and brighter days soon
followed. A letter came from Jack saying that he hoped they would let
him stay in the prison. “It is so easy to be good here,” he said. “At
home there is no place to find recreation for us colored boys except on
the river bank or in the saloons on "Nigger Hill‟. Here in the
Penitentiary we always have the Chaplain to help us.” “Little Phrony”
married a “good” man and they held highly respectable jobs in a
northern city. Buzetta, the nameless waif, grown into a fine woman,
married well. And these two vied with each other in caring for Laura –
taking her for months-on-end in their own home and showing appreciation
for the care she had given them when there was no one else to care for
them. Corabelle raised a family of boys who ran errands and did chores
for Grandma. Estella, always dependable, looked well after “Mom”.
Then came the crowning joy that filled Laura‟s soul with thankfulness.
Horace, the run-a-way boy, wrote that he was coming home. He had been
in the Army and had “got religion” and he was coming home to be a
preacher. He was ordained a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal
Church and made his mother truly happy in her old age.
Her work was over. Her mission as a mother had been fulfilled and the
Lord had been good to her. When she was called to her reward she asked
that “her white folks”, as she had called us for so many years, sing at
her funeral; and so we joined the throng of people who had loved her
and who gathered at the church to pay their last respects to a
wonderful mother, and sang there a parting hymn.
When Gabriel‟s trumpet shall wake me at that last morning I am sure who
I will meet on that Beautiful Shore – My own mother will be waiting for
me there, and just a little way behind her will stand Laura – she may
even have ready a breakfast of batter-cakes and bacon.
AGED SLAVE TELLS VIVID STORY OF THE
New Albany Weekly Ledger 06 January 1933, p. 8 col. 2
Rapidly approaching the years of an octogenarian, yet still hale and
hearty and active for his 95 years, William Franklin Dawson, colored,
ex-slave and Civil War veteran, lives a quiet life of satisfaction and
content at his home at 807 West Ninth street, in New Albany. With his
wife, he shares a substantial government pension on his little hillside
farm under the protecting brow of Silver Hills. Mr. Dawson seldom comes
into the city except once a month to secure his pension from the post
office, so that relatively few know of his interesting personality and
his more interesting life story.
Mr. Dawson was born a slave, moved to Bloomington, Ind., after the war
and a few years ago came to New Albany to reside. He lives with his
wife while his children reside on a farm near the city. He related this
interesting story of the war to a Ledger correspondent.
Living peacefully a life of quiet yet active old age in a land which
more than once he has seen torn asunder by the ravages of war only to
be restored to progressive peacefulness William Franklin Dawson, of New
Albany, 95-year-old ex-slave and Civil war veteran, takes keen delight
in living again the days of his youth.
Dawson was born in Montgomery county, Maryland, almost 95 years ago. He
was born a slave; born to know nothing but plantation drudgery and the
sting of the taskmaster’s lash until one of the greatest figures in the
history of the world, Abraham Lincoln, issued his historic proclamation
emancipating the slaves.
Dawson was first the property of Susan Dawson. On her plantation he
labored from the time when he was first able to go to the fields until
he was nineteen years of age. At that time he was sold to George
Dawson, a slave owner of Logan county, Kentucky.
A Slave Is Sold. The old negro chuckled as he told this writer the
conversation which passed between himself and his new master when he
was first informed that he had been sold. Approaching the slave as he
was at work drawing tobacco plants preparatory to planting them, George
Dawson said, “Well, Franklin.” “Suh?” “I just bought you from Susan.”
“How much did you pay for me, Suh?” “$1,200.” “Suh, I’ll never do you a
nickel’s worth of good.”
And he did not. Soon afterward he ran away from his new master to join
the forces of the Union army. That was February 10, 1864. The price
paid for him, according to Dawson was not high. Young men and women in
good health usually brought $2,000 or more. But the slave owners hard
pressed by the Civil war, were forced to take what they could get and
many, foreseeing that the time would come when they would be deprived
of their human property, sold the slaves for small amounts.
A slave auction was held every Monday morning and the negroes were sold
from the block to the highest bidder.
Scouted for Recruits. Dawson’s first task after joining the Union army
was to aid in “beating up” negro volunteers in Kentucky. When the
colored forces were organized and called into action he was sent to
Fort Harrison, Va., and was placed under the command of General Grant.
The battles at Petersburg and at Nashville, Tenn., were the biggest in
which Dawson participated. At Petersburg, Dawson said, “We fought four
days and four nights without a command to cease firing. At Nashville we
used up all our ammunition and used our gun butts as clubs to beat the
enemy to death.”
Describing the manner of attack, Dawson stated that when a fort was to
be taken the cavalry always made the first rush and the infantry of
which he was a member came into battle.
“When we attacked we could pay no attention to our fallen comrades.
Men, privates and field generals alike fell on all sides but we had to
keep going on with our eyes up, stumbling over the bodies of men and
horses. After the first few rounds had been fired we could not see the
enemy but fired blindly in their direction and kept pressing on. When
the enemy had enough they would raise a white flag and the command
would be given to cease firing. We never raised a white flag. General
Hood was a fighting man and he had a bunch of fighters.”
“Life a Living Hell.” When we went into the war we did not care for
anything but to fight. Life on the plantation had been a living hell.
We would rather have been in the war 99 years, than to have been a
slave one day. Throughout my service in the army I never once thought
Dawson described in detail one of the most fearsome weapons used in the
war. It consisted of two large iron balls, one fastened to each end of
an iron log chain. When these were fired from the cannon they spread
out and mowed down anything in their path. At one time, Dawson said,
the Union army employed these to mow a path through a pine forest five
miles long in pursuit of the enemy.
Grapeshot, round iron balls about the size of an egg, were also used. A
bushel of grape shot was poured into a gun at one time and when the gun
was fired, “the grapeshot really did some work” as Dawson put it.
When on the march the soldiers carried a knapsack, a gun, a canteen,
and 40 rounds of ammunition. For meals they received two hardtacks,
one-half cup of coffee, one-half cup of beans, and a small piece of
meat. They did not
have to be told when a fight was expected for then their rations were
cut down to one and one-half hardtacks.
One Hardtack Enough. One of these hardtack was good according to
Dawson, but it was necessary to soak the other in the coffee and then
peel it off like peeling a potato.
“I never suffered for want of food while in the war,” Dawson said, “but
I did suffer from want of water. We would drink the water from a horse
The clothing furnished the men was good and they did not suffer a great
deal from the elements except on a few occasions. “At Nashville,”
Dawson said, “it was so cold that my lips froze together and I had to
keep wiping my hands across my eyes to keep the eyelids from freezing.”
Plenty of Whiskey. Whiskey was furnished the men by the government and
according to Dawson, “When you drank that whiskey you would fight your
On numerous occasions, Dawson’s outfit, Company G, 115 Kentucky
Regulars, passed in review before Lincoln, his family and the members
of his staff and at one time Dawson talked to Lincoln. That
conversation, which Dawson can recite as if it transpired only
yesterday, was started by Lincoln.
He said, “Do you know how it happens that you are here?” Dawson
replied, “Suh, I suppose it is because you called us.” “It is because
you boys know every rabbit path in the world and we know we could not
win the South without you.”
Dawson still has in his possession many souvenirs of the war, among
them the gun that he carried. “That gun helped make the United States
and I would not part with it,” he said.