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    Chapter 66

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    Chapter 67
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    SPECIMEN CONVERSATION WITH AN AVERAGE NATIVE GEORGIAN--WE LEARN THAT
    SHERMAN IS HEADING FOR SAVANNAH--THE RESERVES GET A LITTLE SETTLING DOWN.

    As the train left the northern suburbs of Savannah we came upon a scene
    of busy activity, strongly contrasting with the somnolent lethargy that
    seemed to be the normal condition of the City and its inhabitants. Long
    lines of earthworks were being constructed, gangs of negros were felling
    trees, building forts and batteries, making abatis, and toiling with
    numbers of huge guns which were being moved out and placed in position.

    As we had had no new prisoners nor any papers for some weeks--the papers
    being doubtless designedly kept away from us--we were at a loss to know
    what this meant. We could not understand this erection of fortifications
    on that side, because, knowing as we did how well the flanks of the City
    were protected by the Savannah and Ogeeche Rivers, we could not see how a
    force from the coast--whence we supposed an attack must come, could hope
    to reach the City's rear, especially as we had just come up on the right
    flank of the City, and saw no sign of our folks in that direction.

    Our train stopped for a few minutes at the edge of this line of works,
    and an old citizen who had been surveying the scene with senile interest,
    tottered over to our car to take a look at us. He was a type of the old
    man of the South of the scanty middle class, the small farmer. Long
    white hair and beard, spectacles with great round, staring glasses,
    a broad-brimmed hat of ante-Revolutionary pattern, clothes that had
    apparently descended to him from some ancestor who had come over with
    Oglethorpe, and a two-handed staff with a head of buckhorn, upon which he
    leaned as old peasants do in plays, formed such an image as recalled to
    me the picture of the old man in the illustrations in "The Dairyman's
    Daughter." He was as garrulous as a magpie, and as opinionated as a
    Southern white always is. Halting in front of our car, he steadied
    himself by planting his staff, clasping it with both lean and skinny
    hands, and leaning forward upon it, his jaws then addressed themselves to
    motion thus:

    "Boys, who mout these be that ye got?"

    One of the Guards:--"O, these is some Yanks that we've bin hivin' down
    at Camp Sumter."

    "Yes?" (with an upward inflection of the voice, followed by a close
    scrutiny of us through the goggle-eyed glasses,) "Wall, they're a
    powerful ornary lookin' lot, I'll declah."

    It will be seen that the old, gentleman's perceptive powers were much
    more highly developed than his politeness.

    "Well, they ain't what ye mout call purty, that's a fack," said the
    guard.

    "So yer Yanks, air ye?" said the venerable Goober-Grabber, (the nick-name
    in the South for Georgians), directing his conversation to me. "Wall,
    I'm powerful glad to see ye, an' 'specially whar ye can't do no harm;
    I've wanted to see some Yankees ever sence the beginnin' of the wah, but
    hev never had no chance. Whah did ye cum from?"

    I seemed called upon to answer, and said: "I came from Illinois; most of
    the boys in this car are from Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and
    Iowa."

    "'Deed! All Westerners, air ye? Wall, do ye know I alluz liked the
    Westerners a heap sight better than them blue-bellied New England
    Yankees."

    No discussion with a Rebel ever proceeded very far without his making an
    assertion like this. It was a favorite declaration of theirs, but its
    absurdity was comical, when one remembered that the majority of them
    could not for their lives tell the names of the New England States, and
    could no more distinguish a Downeaster from an Illinoisan than they could
    tell a Saxon from a Bavarian. One day, while I was holding a
    conversation similar to the above with an old man on guard, another
    guard, who had been stationed near a squad made up of Germans, that
    talked altogether in the language of the Fatherland, broke in with:

    "Out there by post numbah foahteen, where I wuz yesterday, there's a lot
    of Yanks who jest jabbered away all the hull time, and I hope I may never
    see the back of my neck ef I could understand ary word they said, Are
    them the regular blue-belly kind?"

    The old gentleman entered upon the next stage of the invariable routine
    of discussion with a Rebel:

    "Wall, what air you'uns down heah, a-fightin' we'uns foh?"

    As I had answered this question several hundred times, I had found the
    most extinguishing reply to be to ask in return:

    "What are you'uns coming up into our country to fight we'uns for?"

    Disdaining to notice this return in kind, the old man passed on to the
    next stage:

    "What are you'uns takin' ouah niggahs away from us foh?"

    Now, if negros had been as cheap as oreoide watches, it is doubtful
    whether the speaker had ever had money enough in his possession at one
    time to buy one, and yet he talked of taking away "ouah niggahs," as if
    they were as plenty about his place as hills of corn. As a rule, the
    more abjectly poor a Southerner was, the more readily he worked himself
    into a rage over the idea of "takin' away ouah niggahs."

    I replied in burlesque of his assumption of ownership:

    "What are you coming up North to burn my rolling mills and rob my comrade
    here's bank, and plunder my brother's store, and burn down my uncle's
    factories?"

    No reply, to this counter thrust. The old man passed to the third
    inevitable proposition:

    "What air you'uns puttin' ouah niggahs in the field to fight we'uns foh?"

    Then the whole car-load shouted back at him at once:

    "What are you'uns putting blood-hounds on our trails to hunt us down,
    for?"

    Old Man--(savagely), "Waal, ye don't think ye kin ever lick us; leastways
    sich fellers as ye air?"

    Myself--"Well, we warmed it to you pretty lively until you caught us.
    There were none of us but what were doing about as good work as any stock
    you fellows could turn out. No Rebels in our neighborhood had much to
    brag on. We are not a drop in the bucket, either. There's millions more
    better men than we are where we came from, and they are all determined to
    stamp out your miserable Confederacy. You've got to come to it, sooner
    or later; you must knock under, sure as white blossoms make little
    apples. You'd better make up your mind to it."

    Old Man--"No, sah, nevah. Ye nevah kin conquer us! We're the bravest
    people and the best fighters on airth. Ye nevah kin whip any people
    that's a fightin' fur their liberty an' their right; an' ye nevah can
    whip the South, sah, any way. We'll fight ye until all the men air
    killed, and then the wimmen'll fight ye, sah."

    Myself--"Well, you may think so, or you may not. From the way our boys
    are snatching the Confederacy's real estate away, it begins to look as if
    you'd not have enough to fight anybody on pretty soon. What's the
    meaning of all this fortifying?"

    Old Man--"Why, don't you know? Our folks are fixin' up a place foh Bill
    Sherman to butt his brains out gain'."

    "Bill Sherman!" we all shouted in surprise: "Why he ain't within two
    hundred miles of this place, is he?"

    Old Man--"Yes, but he is, tho'. He thinks he's played a sharp Yankee
    trick on Hood. He found out he couldn't lick him in a squar' fight,
    nohow; he'd tried that on too often; so he just sneaked 'round behind
    him, and made a break for the center of the State, where he thought there
    was lots of good stealin' to be done. But we'll show him. We'll soon
    hev him just whar we want him, an' we'll learn him how to go traipesin'
    'round the country, stealin' nigahs, burnin' cotton, an' runnin' off
    folkses' beef critters. He sees now the scrape he's got into, an' he's
    tryin' to get to the coast, whar the gun-boats'll help 'im out. But
    he'll nevah git thar, sah; no sah, nevah. He's mouty nigh the end of his
    rope, sah, and we'll purty' soon hev him jist whar you fellows air, sah."

    Myself--"Well, if you fellows intended stopping him, why didn't you do it
    up about Atlanta? What did you let him come clear through the State,
    burning and stealing, as you say? It was money in your pockets to head
    him off as soon as possible."

    Old Man--"Oh, we didn't set nothing afore him up thar except Joe Brown's
    Pets, these sorry little Reserves; they're powerful little account; no
    stand-up to'em at all; they'd break their necks runnin' away ef ye so
    much as bust a cap near to 'em."

    Our guards, who belonged to these Reserves, instantly felt that the
    conversation had progressed farther than was profitable and one of them
    spoke up roughly:

    "See heah, old man, you must go off; I can't hev ye talkin' to these
    prisoners; hits agin my awdahs. Go 'way now!"

    The old fellow moved off, but as he did he flung this Parthian arrow:

    "When Sherman gits down deep, he'll find somethin' different from the
    little snots of Reserves he ran over up about Milledgeville; he'll find
    he's got to fight real soldiers."

    We could not help enjoying the rage of the guards, over the low estimate
    placed upon the fighting ability of themselves and comrades, and as they
    raved, around about what they would do if they were only given an
    opportunity to go into a line of battle against Sherman, we added fuel to
    the flames of their anger by confiding to each other that we always "knew
    that little Brats whose highest ambition was to murder a defenseless
    prisoner, could be nothing else than cowards end skulkers in the field."

    "Yaas--sonnies," said Charlie Burroughs, of the Third Michigan, in that
    nasal Yankee drawl, that he always assumed, when he wanted to say
    anything very cutting; "you--trundle--bed--soldiers--who've never--seen
    --a--real--wild--Yankee--don't--know--how--different--they--are--from
    --the kind--that--are--starved--down--to tameness. They're--jest--as
    --different--as--a--lion in--a--menagerie--is--from--his--brother--in
    --the woods--who--has--a--nigger--every day--for-dinner. You--fellows
    --will--go--into--a--circus--tent--and--throw--tobacco--quids in--the
    --face--of--the--lion--in--the--cage--when--you--haven't--spunk enough
    --to--look--a woodchuck--in--the--eye--if--you--met--him--alone. It's
    --lots--o'--fun--to you--to--shoot--down--a--sick--and--starving-man
    --in--the--Stockade, but--when--you--see--a--Yank with--a--gun--in--his
    --hand--your--livers get--so--white--that--chalk--would--make--a--black
    --mark--on--'em."

    A little later, a paper, which some one had gotten hold of, in some
    mysterious manner, was secretly passed to me. I read it as I could find
    opportunity, and communicated its contents to the rest of the boys.
    The most important of these was a flaming proclamation by Governor Joe
    Brown, setting forth that General Sherman was now traversing the State,
    committing all sorts of depredations; that he had prepared the way for
    his own destruction, and the Governor called upon all good citizens to
    rise en masse, and assist in crushing the audacious invader. Bridges
    must be burned before and behind him, roads obstructed, and every inch of
    soil resolutely disputed.

    We enjoyed this. It showed that the Rebels were terribly alarmed, and we
    began to feel some of that confidence that "Sherman will come out all
    right," which so marvelously animated all under his command.
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