March 3, 1927
REMINISCENCE No. 2
by W.T. Foster
It was a balmy, pleasant evening in the fall of 1860. Only the stars were shining. People all over Smithville were
sitting in open halls and verandahs waiting for bed-time. Suddenly streamed out from the northern horizon a meteor
which my fath er always described as being big as a nail-keg and which made everything almost as bright as day
as it passed over going toward the south. My father called out to Col. John H. Savage who was sitting on his office
verandah: 'Colonel, what does that mean? ' "It means that we shall have to fight those d----d Yankees, I guess."Lincoln,
the Republican, Bell the Free-spoiler, Douglas northern Democrat, Breckinridge Southern Democrat, all contending
for the presidency in the campaign of 1860! Hate, ill-will, fanaticism rampant! People frenzied, wild, incoherent,
harangues heard everywhere! The strain was terrible! Every word across the line either way was distorted, wrenched,
magnified for evil! Everything pretended war with the presidential election now only forty days away and Lincoln's
triumph certain. No wonder this great lawyer and ardent southerner accepted the remarkable celestial visitor as
an augury of war. A devided democracy threw away its last chance at control of the government. Near this time Col.
Savage was a member of Congress and before retiring made his last speech in the House beginning with the memorable
Words: "Sir, I trust I am not more fearful than other men. If the war must come, let it come." The student
of history who would be interested to see more of this Speech, can find it in "Fields Scrap-Book", a
very popular column about 1870. Col. Savage kept a copy of this book in his library and I am sure it quotes him
- Other representatives from the South were getting ready to part with Northern confreres--- ties were being
dissolved as each hour went by. Mississippi, Second to leave the Union and last to get back, made Jefferson Davis's
farewell address to th e Senate imperative. Many Senators wept -- many of them Northern men. Things were moving
with kaleidoscopic swiftness. A great social conclusion was imminent. Henry Clay was in his grave ten years at
Ashland. There was no one left to stay the catastr ophe of arms. War was wrinkling his front, the door of the temple
of Janus was about to open wide. Nobody declared war--it was not necessary -- the genius of events took care of
that. Friday morning, April 12, 1861, the first shot of the Civil War cras hed against the granite wall of Fort
Sumpter. It was fired by Edwin Ruffin, a gray-haired Virginian. The war had arrived.
- My father moved us to the Anne Durham place on Pine Creek and put in a Crop of corn. My earliest recollection
is seeing that creek and walking over a line of stepping stones led by my sister or step-sister. It was a great
trial on my nerves, the wa ter scared me greatly. I was then two and a half years old. The only other event occurring
out there which I remember was my brothers disrobing me, sousing me in a mudhole and sending me in (bawling of
course) to meet my step-mother and several lady vis itors. Who Would not have remembered that? The summer of '61'
found us moved back to Smithville and living in the house where the county jail now stands. That fall the corn
from the Burham place was hauled in and thrown into the front yard preparatory to storing it upstairs. But Presto!
Change! Begone! next day Billy Hathaway with his company of Federal cavalry rode in from Liberty, parked their
horses on the square, and soon the greatest crunching of corn was in progress. Surely this was a typical war scene.
The extreme familiarity of these men with that pile of corn made a very sensible impression on the size of it.
My father accepted the situation good naturedly, indeed, he was always a very clever man, however, I am sure he
regarded this as th e greatest test his liberality ever received. A hundred men, the color scheme in blue, the
rattling of shucks, the badinage of the foragers, the crunching of a hundred horses at once made this easily the
most exciting day of my life, up to this time. St range, but evidently at that tender age only the things that
strongly appealed to my emotions have been held in my memory. The prosaic enrollments of my brother in the different
companies and regiments in that first year are not to be remembered.
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March 17, 1927
REMINISCENCE No. 3
by W.T. Foster
In my last paper I stated that I had no recollection of my brothers' entering the war. It is a matter of record
however, that my brothers. E. D. Foster and S. M. Foster joined Capt. Cantrell's Company C, 23 Regiment, Tennessee
Confederate Infant ry. My Brother J. B. Foster was teaching school at buck Hill, Miss. when the war began and he
became a member of the 15th Mississippi Regiment organized at that place. Later he was captured by the Federals
and sent to Rock Island prison where he remaine d for 18 months, being paroled at the close of the war. He died
ten years ago near Meridian, Miss., where he had spent the last thirty years of his life in the very successful
practice of medicine. E. D. Foster died at Sulpher Springs, Texas in 1890, le aving a son bearing his full name,
a Posthumous child, I think. S. M. Foster died at Roseville, Arkansas, in 1902, leaving a large family. I have
given this information specially for the old fellows who fought with them at Perryville, Fishing Creek, Mur freesboro,
Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge, and who still linger on this side of the river
- The Civil War early assumed the phase of an economic struggle. Everyone who passed through it remembers the
scarcity of salt, Quinine, coffee and sugar and other articles. The blockade made it very difficult to get them.
An Inspissation of wil low bark was made to take the place of quinine, sorghum replaced sugar, bran supplanted
coffee, but salt --- never a grain came across the line unless it was smuggled in. Those first years of the war
before the Louisiana salt mine was brought in were yea rs of great deprivation and hazardous to health. About the
third fact connected with the war that I distinctly remember was the digging up of the dirt floor in the tavern
smoke house and extracting from it the salt it contained. This was done by putting the dirt in water and stirring
till a strong brine was obtained. When this solution had remained undisturbed for a few days, the clear brine was
poured off and reboiled, leaving a residue of pretty fair salt --every grain of which was regarded as a prec ious
possession. I think Mack Shures occupied the tavern at that time. This event occurred in 1862, I think, and if
so, I was four years old. I see the whole operation now in all its details.
- In the course of these "reminiscences" sketches of men and women will be a prominent feature for
after all what can be more interesting than people? Many, many features of the old DeKalb crowd upon my attention
and I hope to give them recogniti on before I am done. There are many readers of the Review whose interest in what
I shall write, must lie, if at all, in the fact that I shall be speaking of their fathers, grandfathers and great
grandfathers many times as the serial progresses. I am a f orward looker -- Plainly I have always fought the idea
of looking backward, however I agree that there is a somber pleasure, if there is such a thing as that, in going
over the events of the buried years, let us say, at rare intervals, for brushing off th e dust that has fallen
slowly and steadily for half a century and which lies deepest on that faraway and of the line where youth recorded
its brightest and visualized its most coveted achievements, is, to say the most for it, not very conducive to hilarit
y. Deep, almost sub-conscious, there runs a minor strain through reminiscence. Manifestly it is always there and
must be heard. Maybe we who are in the evening twilight of life and who have used little philosophy in adjusting
ourselves to the inevitabl e, perceive too acutely the minor chord running through. But the major symphonies are
there, in every life dominant and directing and should be distinguished.
- I trust that every reader of the Review will take time to read the introductory papers and find himself going
with me over the events I shall mention later -- events that largely came under my personal observation and happened
from 1861 to 1876, the year of my departure from Smithville, a place I shall always love, the scene of my boyhood
sports, where I built "my castles in Spain", where I experienced my purest joys and bitterest grief.
It is related that Admiral Lord Nelson once said, "When I am dead, examine my heart and upon it you will find
written 'more ships'." Upon mine you will find, "Dear Old Smithville".
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