Thursday, March 1, 2007

One Woman's Story

I've never been keen on the history of the Civil War because it makes me uncomfortable. For one thing, my ancestors (as far as I can tell, just about all of them) were Confederates and I am sad and ashamed that they were not on the side of the angels, so to speak. In their defense, if there can be one, I have not found evidence (and I've looked for it) that any of them owned slaves. For each line I've traced, I've found them to be a fairly uniform group -- the owners of small farms. Today is the first day of Women's History Month, so it seems like a good day for a story about one of them: my great, great, great grandmother, Elizabeth Grimmette.

Arkansas isn't known for having many famous Civil War battles, but it had quite a few skirmishes. Most of those in the northern part of the state were in 1862. Little Rock fell in 1863, and the Confederate army retreated south -- to the area in which ten year old Elizabeth Grimmette lived with her mother, her little sister, and her two little brothers. Elizabeth had a heavy load on her shoulders for such a little girl because her father was a Confederate soldier. Her uncle and male cousins were as well, so Elizabeth, her mother, and the other women in the family nearly starved when their crops were trampled or stolen by armies passing through.

Elizabeth experienced one trauma after another. Her father was killed at Chickamauga in September 1863; her uncle was seriously wounded and months went by with no word on whether he'd survived. The ultimate horror, however, happened when her cousin Richard came home on furlough to visit his wife and six year old daughter. Federal troops reached Benton, the nearest town, and someone told them Richard was at home. They dragged him out of his house, took him to Little Rock, and executed him.

Elizabeth's mother died when she was seventeen, leaving her alone with a fourteen year old brother, an eleven year old brother, and a thirteen year old sister. She married her seventeen year old neighbor (my great great great grandfather) and went on to have twelve children herself. She lived until 1922, so she had plenty of time and children to tell her story to. In the photo below, taken around 1904 in front of the house her father built, Elizabeth is the woman in the black dress standing to the left of the porch. My ggg-grandfather is next to her. The others are their children and grandchildren.

Elizabeth Grimmette's life was hard, and not particularly happy, and the whispers my grandmother heard (and told me) about her trying to drown herself in the Saline River seem believable. She was, however, one tough lady to have survived all of that, and I am proud to call her "mine".


gerry said...

A truly touching story. Yes, Civil warfare is something that does no good to anyone and brings about the untimely death of one's near and dear ones. I truly admire the courage of the lady too. Great post! Do visit my blog too for there are many posts which would surely interest you.

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

As always a thought provoking and moving post Tamara. Makes you wonder how people coped - but then they had to. Prompted by your post I was working out my own generations from the family bible. My own paternal maternal ggg grandmother was born in 1775. They all produced kids late in their lives. She was 29 when she married a 19yr old toy boy and my gg grandmother was the youngest of their 6 living children (2 died). GG married, produced numerous offspring and the youngest became my g/grandmother, who married late and produced my gran in 1899.

Tess said...

Wow, what a story. I'd been meaning to come back and read this post of yours and am glad now I did. She sounds like an amazing woman!! And aren't old pics lovely?