Monday, June 8, 2009

The 1861 Evacuation

By November 2, 1861, Confederate intelligence had determined that Commodore Samuel F. DuPont and his Union armada were headed for Port Royal. Residents were advised to evacuate. All across Beaufort the white population made hasty arrangements to flee inland to safety. Many took only a few necessities, expecting to return after a successful Southern defense of the harbor.

An American Family by Stephen Barnwell relates a poignant firsthand account from Anne Barnwell Walker, fifth daughter of John Gibbes Barnwell, of that last Sunday in Beaufort before the invasion.

“[The day was] beautiful beyond description. Our hearts were filled with patriotism and devotion while the organ pealed the beautiful hymn ‘God save the South.’ Dr. Walker* preached a sermon full of faith in their cause, reminding his flock ‘that God is nigh to all who call upon Him.’ He announced that he would ring the bells of the church the next day at noon and asked the heads of families ‘to gather their households together and hold family prayers’ (such as few neglected to do at least once every day in those far off times). We were subdued as we walked home, but we never dreamed of the fate before us.”12

Another firsthand account in An American Family comes from Anne Walker’s daughter Emily. She relates her memories of the anguishing last hours for the family at 705 Washington Street.“[I] went around to Grandma’s to see what they were going to do…
“Grandma was born in exile in Maryland when we were fighting our ancestors the English… Grandma was now eighty-two. She, Aunts Sarah and Emily decided on account of Grandma’s age they would leave at once. The coachman, Daddy Sam, was told to drive the carriage to the front door…The negroes made up a bed on a stretcher for Grandma, looking broken hearted, no talking by anyone except what was absolutely necessary. Grandma sat in a chair. Daddy Will [the butler] took it up on one side; Daddy Sam in the other. She was placed on the bed. Aunt Sarah, Aunt Emily, Maum Tenah got in, the door shut and they started on their long journey. Me? I was too excited to cry. I turned off for home little thinking that years would pass before I would see the old house again…”13

*Dr. Joseph Rogers Walker was the second husband of Mariana Smith, the eldest daughter of Marianna Gough Smith. He became pastor of St. Helena’s Church in 1823 and would serve until his retirement in 1878 with the exception of the five years of Federal occupation. A powerful religious influence in Beaufort, Dr. Walker was responsible for more than a score of young men entering the ministry, including his brother Dr. Edward Tabb Walker, who married Anne Bull Barnwell.

12The Story of an American Family, page 190
13Ibid, page 190

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