Recollections of Raymond
by Rebecca Blackwell Drake
Judge Augustine Dabney and his wife, Elizabeth, lived in Raymond during the war years. Augustine was a well-known lawyer in town. He also helped to establish St. Marks Episcopal Church. He was the father of ten children. Of the ten children, curly headed and mischievous Letitia was the youngest.
Letitia was eleven years old during the spring of 1863, when she got her first taste of Yankees. At the time, she was visiting Burleigh, the Dry Grove plantation home of her wealthy uncle, Thomas Dabney. "My uncle left his plantation in charge of his overseer, Mr. Scarbrough, and went to Georgia to arrange a place to take his salves," she recalled. "One morning, while he was gone, two stragglers from Grant's Army appeared on horseback. They were very rude and insulting. The men put Mr. Scarbrough with his back to a tree on the lawn and said they would shoot him as a spy and gave him five minutes to live. My cousins were weeping and pleading with them not to kill Mr. Scarbrough but it seemed that all was in vain. Cousin Sue whispered to Lelia (my sister) and me, saying, 'You try! Don't let them kill Mr. Scarbrough.' So Lelia and I ran to the poor man and fastened ourselves to his legs. Then, we started screaming and yelling so loud the Yankees let him go. Mr. Scarbrough broke and ran for home leaving us with those 'wretches'. Luckily for us, the men found a store of old Madeira vine and proceeded to get drunk. Finally, they left taking with them some good rugs and cuff links."
On the day of the Battle of Raymond, May 12, 1863, Letitia was returning to Raymond from an outing at her uncle's plantation. As the carriage approached town, she could hear the loud booming sounds of the cannons. "When we arrived in Raymond, we found the advance guard of McPherson's army was fighting Gregg's brigade in the old town cemetery." she reminisced. "My sisters were all there behind the lines, receiving the wounded and helping to care for them. The Texas brigade was driven back and when we got to town, we found the Union army marching down the village street in front of my father's house. They camped around us, burned all the fences for their cooking pots and emptied the hen house and the smokehouse. I saw them drive off the cow and calf while my mother begged in vain to spare them. My sister lay very ill with typhoid fever, and the cow's milk was all we had to give her."
What a sight for an eleven year old. Almost overnight, her home had been taken over by the Yankees and the entire town was caught between the lines. In her Recollections Letitia wrote, "The Courthouse was turned into a Confederate hospital and all the churches were filled with wounded Union soldiers. Antiseptic surgery had not been dreamed of, and flies abounded, nay, literally swarmed! And they died, how those men died - pitiful boys of sixteen or seventeen. Just a little wound in hand or foot set up gangrene followed by death. All of my sisters nursed the wounded all day long. So did the other women in town. All food that had any claims to nicety was carried to the hospital. Nearly all our china found its way there, never to he returned. Every book they could read went the same way."
The women of Raymond dedicated a great deal of time and effort toward nursing the sick and wounded. They didn't mind. What they did mind was the way the Union army ravaged their homes - looting and stealing everything in sight. George Harper, owner of the Hinds County Gazette, later wrote, "Many families were stripped of almost everything during that dreadful and never-to-be-forgotten night. Fortunately there was no burning but the office of the Gazette was destroyed." Colonel Harper had every right to be angry. The Yankees added insult to injury by throwing his printing press into the town's well.
Following the war, living conditions were deplorable. "I wonder how any of us grew up, the drinking water of the village was so contaminated. There were open wells, with buckets. All the family was subject to violent attacks of stomach and intestinal trouble. These were called cramp colic, cholera, morbus flux, etc., and no one ever dreamed of connecting them with the drinking supply. My father had a medicine chest filled with paregoric, Jamaica ginger and cholera mixture, which he dispersed freely."
In the months following the Battle of Raymond, Augustine Dabney's family decided to move out to Dry Grove and live at Burleigh, the abandoned plantation of Thomas Dabney. The Thomas Dabney family had long since fled and only the faithful servants remained on the property. The once spacious and affluent plantation home was now in ruins and there was little or no hope for repairs. "We were all living at Dry Grove when the sad news came of Lee's surrender," recalled Letitia. "I can remember the fears and lamentations in our family circle. Then, the poor ragged, emaciated soldiers began straggling home. Three of my oldest brothers were among them."
The Augustine Dabney family remained in the Dry Grove area but most of the family eventually moved from Hinds County. One son, Benjamin Dabney, became a doctor and moved to Texas. Another son, Marye Dabney, became a prominent lawyer in Vicksburg. Frederick Dabney became a Civil Engineer and worked for the railroad in Crystal Springs. As for Letitia, she was married in 1872 and became the wife of Thomas Marshall Miller, Mississippi's Attorney General from 1886-1893.
Historical Source: "The Recollections of Letitia Dabney Miller" written in 1929 while living in Chicago, and an 1988 interview with James Dabney Miller, the great-grandson of Letitia. Photograph courtesy of Thomas Marshall Miller, the great-grandson of Letitia. Letitia is presumed to be buried in the Live Oak Cemetery at Pass Christian, Misissippi, next to her husband, Attorney General Thomas Marshall Miller.
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