Interview background: Life on the Plantation
GVD: We understand that after returning home in May, your husband joined the CSA war effort. Talk about that.
NBD: After a visit of several weeks, we returned to our home in Robertville, and my husband continued his practice, but his restlessness and anxiety to join the army was so great that I ceased to dissuade him. Physicians were needed at home, but he thought the older men should serve there, and the younger go to the front. He joined the Charleston Light Dragoons, and became surgeon of Major Trenholm’s brigade. When this brigade was was transferred to Virginia, he was, on account of his health, detailed to look after the hospitals on the coast.
The Capture of Port Royal, November 1861
GVD: Union forces capture Port Royal in early November 1861. Do you recall much about that?
NBD: Before we left our home, the fort below our country town, Beaufort, was taken, and the Northern fleet sailed in while the inhabitants were asleep. This fight at Port Royal was the second battle of the war.
GVD: What did people do when they learned the Port Royal region was taken by the North?
NBD: When the tidings of the invasions of their town was brought to them, the people, thinking the town would be shelled, fled in their carriages, many of them not waiting to dress themselves, so great was their fright. This long procession of carriages and wagons passed through our village about dusk, the occupants not knowing what to do or where to go. Every house was thrown open to them and these first refugees remained in the neighborhood during the war. They were taken care of, until in turn we had to flee before Sherman’s army.
Late-War Reminscences, Charleston-area
GVD: Take us back to December 1864. It’s late in the war, but of course you had no idea then when the war would be over. But in late 1864 the Eastern seaboard, Georgia and South Carolina particularly, are feeling the effects of Sherman’s famous March to the Sea. Can you talk about that a little?
NBD: The year 1864, in the month of December, found me still in the old homestead [in Robertville]. Sherman had passed on the Georgia side of the river, to Savannah, which was taken. We wondered what would be his next move, but never for an instant thought he would retrace his steps, and go through South Carolina.
GVD: Did your father provide support or care for retreating Southern troops as Sherman marched through South Carolina?
NBD: The Southern troops which had guarded Savannah retreated to our neighborhood, and we cared for them for several weeks. There were at least five thousand troops on our plantation of nine thousand acres. Barbecues of whole beeves, hogs, and sheep were ordered for them. The officers were fed in the house, there being sometimes two hundred a day. The soldiers had their meals in camp.
GVD: What did you do for money during the war?
NBD: For money we had no use, as everything was grown or manufactured on the plantation.