April 14, 1927
REMINISCENCE No. 6
by W.T. Foster
On September 17, 1862, occurred the Battle of Antietam, perhaps the bloodiest battle of the Civil War according
to the number of men engaged. I walked over that battle-field a few years ago, visited the little cove called Bloody
Run where the bl ood actually flowed as a rivulet, and was told that for years after the war that cove produced
immense crops! I asked the keeper of the Federal cemetery how many federals were resting there and he replied 4800.
Both armies suffered proportionately. Nex t day McClellan and Lee stood facing each other but neither made an offensive.
That night Lee withdrew into Virginia. Lincoln construed Antietam as a victory for the Union, and accordingly on
September 22, he issued his emancipation Proclamation declari ng the freedom of all slaves to date from January
1, 1863. One of the results of this proclamation it was hoped would be a general withdrawal of southern men to
return home and protect women and children from the menace of negro uprising. All calculatio ns on this head defaulted
for the most astonishing thing in social history took place -- there was no up-rising --and it must be written
to the everlasting credit of the race in bondage. We are not to believe that the negroes were unaffected by the
procl amation for they were affected. Here and there a negro would do a little effervescing over it, indulging
in a recital of what he expected to do when master said he could go. On the other hand thousands looked forward
with dread to the hour of saying goo dby to "old Master and Missus". I remember while living near Watertown
to have heard a big young negro man approach our gate singing lustily:
| Look out now for I'm gwine to shoot!
Look out for don't you understand?
For the balloon"s a - fallin', a - fallin"
An' O'm a - gwineter ark-opy the lan"!
- So the negro had already had his dreams of taking over the country, extravagant as it may seem. No wonder he
was duped into the extravanganza of "forty acres and a mule". I shall never forget the spectacle of negroes
voting in those early years of reconstruction while many of DeKalb's best citizens were denied the ballot. That
scene is as fresh as though happening yesterday. I see the little groups of negroes standing in the court yard
with ballots in hand conferring while pure Anglo-Saxon Am ericans stood with folded arms.
- The aftermath of war is the dreadful thing about it. We have not in any sense recovered from our participation
in the World War. It will take at least two generations, perhaps three, to cease feeling its positive effects.
And this reckoning ta kes no account of the European debts for they will never be paid. As to that, we have not
gotten over the effects of the Civil War after sixty-one years, for among the items in the present national debt
is a little matter of some nine-hundred-fifty-thous and dollars due to the Civil War, to say nothing of certain
moral and spiritual effects which live on and on and on. Many a man went to the war in the 60's bearing with him
the love and esteem of all who knew him for his exemplary life and manly bearing, only to return home with moral
standards lowered, ideals tarnished, will weakened, or worse still, to embark on a career of lawlessness and crime.
It would be easy to make a list of half a score of citizens of Dekalb who classified under this head. Wit h all
the innumerable train of moral delinquencies imposed on society by war in plain view and our perfect awareness
of war's damning, enslaving, brutalizing effect with its inescapable and hellish aftermath, what do you think of
the greatest nation under the sun, the nation that has the greatest reputation for loving peace, having spent twenty-five
years of its one-hundred-fifty years of nationhood, one-sixth of its national life IN WAR? That is exactly what
your Uncle Sam has done! The wars that enter into this count were all under a formal declaration of war by, the
government - no Indian wars included. When will the spirit of the square deal hold the reins of power in this old
world? God hasten the day!
- The martial spirit of the 60's seized even the children. Around 1870, cob battles were of frequent occurence
in Smithville. The regular arsenals were the hog pens of J. M. Allen and Jack Kennedy. Strategically they were
far apart, offered good facilities for skirmishing. feinting, falling back, flanking, advancing and charging. All
available material for the war assembled at the south side of the old courthouse, captains were selected, warriors
evenly divided, each group repaired to its resp ective arsenal, magazines were filled with the soggiest cobs obtainable,
the charge and counter charge were announced by junior rebel yells, and the battle was on. The contending hosts
met in the square, firing steadily, emptied magazines almost shadowed by the flight of cobs in the air, as ran
the oriental hyperbole.
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Smithville, Tennessee April 21, 1927
REMINISCENCE No. 7
by W.T. Foster
When peace was declared we moved back to Smithville occupying the Hollis house which my father owned. Judge Crowley
having rented the one on the south side of the square. I was now seven years old and by dint of my good step-mother's
efforts at home, attendance at school in Wilson county the year before, I had become a good reader for my age.
I see my step-mother now -- Judy Boatwright was her maiden name, as she patiently taught me to read. I shall never
forget the little book she had me read from the Methodist Sunday School Library. "Little Johnny Rider"
was its name and it told of a little basket-maker. I have tried for years to find a copy of it and any reader who
has a copy of it I will pay five dollars for it. Address me at Lyer ly, Ga. I recall attending school with Bob
West at Watertown in '64. Bob and I were to be associated years later in a famous snipe hunt at Smithville, of
which I shall speak perhaps, later. I want to speak now of school days at old Fulton Academy
- My Father believed in schooling his children. It must have been in the fall of 1865 that I entered Fulton Academy,
an institution of note in the up-country. It was the people's school and attended by all classes from beginners
on up to collegia te pupils. From 1865 to 1876 I recalled as principals, though I suppose my chronology is somewhat
in error: John Harris, Epps Cheatham, Dr. Dick Womack, Billy Womack, A.C. Carnes, J.M. Kidwell, J.J. and W.R. Smith,
J.B. Smith. Schools in Smithville in that day were not supposed to extend over a session, as they now do, of nine
months, but were taken by terms, a term being perhaps five months, when the teacher was at Liberty to move on to
a new field. This custom makes it very difficult at this distanc e to place these men definitely. I think however,
that Carnes, Kidwell, and the Smith brothers continued two years each as principal, as also perhaps John Harris.
Re-considering the chronology I have interchanged the Womacks and place Kidwell before Car nes. All in all you
will not find in their day a superior list of men. Each had his strong points. Briefly, Harris, instructor and
disciplinarian; Cheatham, elegant gentleman, greatly regarded. Victim of dyspepsia; Billy Womack, genial, well-liked;
Dr . Womack, a man of wonderful personality, fine teacher and disciplinarian; Kidwell, Christian minister, good
instructor and disciplinarian; A.C. Carnes, easily the finest all round scholar under whose teaching I ever sat
and good disciplinarian; Smith br others, good teachers, had great enthusiasm, fine personal appearance, good disciplinarians;
J.B. Smith, scholarly, slow in manner but sure, and I recall a good disciplinarian. Carnes was, with the possible
exception of Harris, the only seasoned, experi enced one who had put his lifework in teaching. He was great on
details, correcting every error as to grammar made by any of his pupils in his presence. He was a stickler for
exactness, he sought to make scholars of his pupils. He possessed a slight deg ree of the ego but it was never
offensive. He was wonderfully informed on every subject - a man of wide reading, could wake up mind, kindle aspiration.
No department of school work was too primary for him. He first taught in Smithville to all pupils th e forty-two
elementary rounds. If an innovation appealed to him, he tried it. He put all, large and small, on a merit system
using small cards dealt to each five merits each morning. It worked well and longer than the usual device. He followed
the adv ice of the poet who said: "Do not the first by whom the new is tried, Nor yet the last to lay the
- When I get to heaven I shall want to meet Campbell Carnes and it will not be hard to find him. I will inquire
for the throne and there I shall find him sitting at the feet of The Great Teacher in company with Moses, Paul
and Socrates. Campbell Carnes over my life as I stood before my twenty-thousand pupils. Tears have fallen as I
wrote these last thoughts -- for I loved him.
- It may truly be said that no town of Smithville's population has ever excelled the array of beauty that attended
Fulton Academy around '70. There were the Hays girls, The Wades, the Kennedys, the Crowleys, The Carnes, The Allens,
The Whaleys, th e Mantlebaums, The Shields, The Doziers, Sewells, Magness, Gowans, Martins, Pryor, and others.
Had there been an Atlantic City in that day with the annual " Miss America ", Smithville could have won
without passing the first name on this list. I suppose Smithville contained about 600 population in 1870. For thirty-five
years I have served as superintendent of schools in towns running from 1500 to 5000 population and I am sincere
when I say none of them surpassed perhaps have not equaled her beauties of 1870.
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