Miss Fanny Flies Her Flag
Miss Fanny Flies Her Flag #1 & 2
Francine Hickman was a very young girl when the war with Mexico was over. She had seen her Daddy and Brothers go off to war and her Mother laid to rest in the family cemetery in the length of five years. Still she chose to live in the family house and care for her nephew Chad. Francine was better known as Fanny by friends and kin, and preferred to be called by that name.
Chad was eight, and as large as any twelve year in the vicinity. Together they kept the small edge of town farm running smoothly. Fanny was happy having the use of her farm products and the near by town for company and news. Chad could easily walk the short distance to the General Store which served as Bank and Post Office as well. There had been many men who sought after Fanny's hand in marriage but her Daddy let her make her own decision when it came to marriage, therefore she had not taken a husband. No one suited her or could stand up to the standards of her Daddy and Brothers. Hero's all.
Chad was the son of Fannie's brother Seth, he was a widower and liked going to war more than married life.When his wife died, Seth left Chad with Fanny and went off to join his Daddy and Brother in Mexico.
Fanny was dedicated to Chad,every thing she did was in some way for him. she bought him good clothes, a pony and of course books. Miss Fanny did believe in reading .She made a point of reading one book each week and kept a running total of how much Chad read. With the boy in school and helping around the little farm there wasn't a lot of time for him to spend reading. Of course they read the Bible every night and went to Church every Sunday.
Chad was a big fan of fishing, he went as often as time allowed,usually brought home some good cat fish for Fanny to fry up with hush puppies and cold slaw, with fried potatoes. This was their Sunday night dinner, since Chad went fishing every Sunday afternoon and never came home empty handed.
Talk had filtered down to the lazy little Georgia town about war, war between the South and North States. Fanny had known war of one kind or the other all her life but she could not stand to think of the Southern States being invaded by the North, and certainly not over slavery. Fanny owned no slaves and never would. She employed a husband and wife to help with the farm and heavy house work but they had a good house and money in their pockets. Luther and Essie Mae King they were. Miss Fanny had a set down on the front porch every Sunday afternoon with Essie Mai catching up on the local gossip. Luther worked some for the Post Office, mostly using the telegraph and running messages to the business people who also tipped him well. Fanny guessed Luther had about as much money packed away as most white folks, thing about it was the white folk changed from confederate money to Union money just to be safe. Miss Fanny had a hard time convincing Luther to follow suit.
Fannie thought it a good idea and did the same, with out feeling too much of a trader to the South.
It was well known the South could not compare with the North in guns and equipment, where all the South had was cotton. Close the market for cotton sales up North and in foreign lands, close down the South, which would happen anyway when the President's proclamation became law in freeing the slaves. With out slave help there wasn't a plantation in the south could run a year. Beside that she pondered on who would keep them up?
They got housing and food from their Masters, who would they get it from if they left the plantations, and they had no education. Very few could read and write, which was one thing Fanny took seriously. It was Miss Fanny's opinion every person should be able to read the Bible and write their own name. Why couldn't they compromise? Womens work was in the home, Politics was the business of the men and a poor job they were doing settling this one. Luther and Essie Mai could read and write as well as any white person, their black skin didn't keep them from using their brain. In fact Fanny had taught many black folk to read and write, it was against the law, but what Christian minded person obeyed such a law as that? Certainly not Miss Fanny.
One day when Chad was about fifteen he came in telling the story of war breaking out in the Carolinas. Fanny had trouble believing this story, but as days went by and people came and went the story became true, and could not any longer be explained away. The South and the North was going to fight it out, right there on their door step. Miss Fanny had always loved flags and kept one flying by the front room chimney all the time. With the South leaving the union one state after the other Fanny waited to see what the Georgia flag would look like. Once she saw a picture of the Stars and Bars Fanny set in to make one. A red back ground with a large cross filled with the number of States leaving the Union, the Rebel War flag. Fanny never did anything by halves, she had to make the biggest flag in town. It took weeks to make it, the stars being the slow down thing. They had to be prefect white on blue which she had on hand, the red was ordered by the man who owned the General store. He told Miss Fanny one day, a mighty lot of people were making them flags, the bigger the better but he believed hers would be the best of all. Fanny sewed day and night. Chad was worried about her eye sight, making them little stitches he could hardly see himself.
The day Miss Fannie's war flag went up, they went up all over the country. Fanny's Daddy and Brothers came home from one war right into another one. Over the mantel her Daddy hung his long sword for safe keeping. It did not enter his mind that Georgia would be invaded by the North. One or two months was all he gave the war between the states.
Two years later Daddy, Brothers and Chad were gone to fight to preserve the South. To their way of thinking they needed to clean up the North before they came down dictating to the South. It was well know who manned the factory's and foundries in the north .
Immigrants coming from foreign lands to find a better way of life were snatched up for the grueling factory and iron foundries jobs that no American man could work. Their living arrangements were as bad or worse than the slaves of the South. All they made had to be spent in the company store, so actually they were working and dieing with no wages at all. When a man died in the factory, foundry or coal mine the wife and family were put out of the company shack on to the street, to die or get by on charity if they could.
Major Hickman insisted Fanny take Luther and Essie Mae to his place on the river. It was so remote he didn't think the Yankees could find it if they even knew about it. Fanny agreed to go, much against her will, but before she left she had her own skirmish with the Yankees known from that point on as the Dam Yankees.
The Yankees were scouting for food and live stock, horses and mules mostly. Chad's horse was old and usually kept close to the house but Luther got word of the visiting Yankees and took every thing he could drag or haul to the caves on the river. When the Yankee soldiers came making their demands Miss Fanny stood right up proud in their face. There was no horses or mules left from the last time the varmints come begging. To appease their anger she let them find half a ham in the smoke house, and told them to enjoy it, it was all they were getting off her. One lone soldier had gone into the front of the house, seeing what he could find to steal since they came up short on what they were after. He made the mistake of taking down Daddy's sword from the war in Mexico. He didn't know he was tangling with a tiger when he brought out that sword.
Miss Fanny, all five foot two and one hundred pounds of her went on him like a coon dog on a coon after a long run. Fanny came out with a sword and Luther came out with a shot gun. The dam Yankees thought it a good time to continue on their animal hunt, and left with out further damage or any blood spilled.
The next day Miss Fannie, Luther and Essie Mae left for the river side home. Figuring people would take what they wanted any way, Fanny left the door unlocked but not before Luther took down the flag and placed it safely in the wagon bed. He told Miss Fanny she would not get to fly her flag any more, because it would attract all kind of attention from the fiver and might get them held prisoner or shot. Miss Fanny, of course, thought that foolish and insisted she would fly that flag for her boy Chad.
The river home was in a beautiful place. Nine other homes had been built there for summer homes, they were built around a park, one row of houses, all open to the wooded fields, one road in and out, one dock where supply and mail boats could come ashore to bring orders placed for the summer. There was no store, Post Office or telegraph office.
There was no means of communication except a letter sent by supply boat once a month. The park was very nice with comfortable seats, picnic tables, a place for lawn bowling and croquet.There were fountains from natural springs which splashed cold water all year.A track just wide enough for a buggy and the ladies room to walk in the cool of the evening circled the park. Of course every house had a beaten path from one house to the other, for the essential running right in and right back out again.
Miss Fanny's house was the first one on the left facing the river. In time they saw many flat boats carrying grain and supplies down river, a paddle wheeler or two with cattle, but nothing indicating the moving of troops into the area.
Much to Miss Fannie's dismay she soon learned she would have two boarders. It seemed the upper crust of the town had sent their daughters to the river homes for safe keeping until the war was over. Some went North to finishing school but these young ladies were left for the river home families to care for. Miss Fanny had Lorie Marsh and Lillie O'Dell, both fourteen year old babies. Neither knew the meaning of clean up after your self or fix your own lunch. Thank heavens for Luther and Essie Mae or Miss Fanny would have gone stark raving mad. Miss Fannie had her reading to catch up on, and tea to drink with the other nine ladies, with gossip to exchange. The two young girls made the biggest difference in Miss Fanny's life,instead of a long boring summer she was going to have a long teaching sumer.
She introduced the girls to books and diary's, often havening them to write a page about their favorite subject which in most cases was boys. Both bragged of having gentlemen friends but they seemed to have no names when the time for show and tell came around. Miss Fanny told them if they had rather, they could just make one up. The girls did not mind writing about the imaginary beaus but was embarrassed when neither got so much as a kiss on the cheek. Miss Fanny also taught sewing to the girls and Essie took them in hand to learn how to bake, by telling them the fastest way to a mans heart was through the stomach. Between Essie and Miss Fanny it was decided there was a great need for mothers to take lessons them self instead of leaving a girl for a Nannie to raise.
No word of the war reached them. They kept daily look outs on the river for boats carrying loads of blue coated dam Yankees, but that first summer and winter passed with out incident. For all they knew there was no one else in the world except them and the monthly supply boat which just set the things on the shore and left it for the families to get home the best they could.
One spring morning Miss Fanny awakened with a sick feeling of dread on her heart. Something had happened or was about to happen. Which ever was going to turn life around. She slowly got up, made her bed set coffee to boil on the old cast iron stove. Then to the door.
The park was no park any more. It was a tent city. Rows and rows of white tents, with one big one in the middle of the park near the water fountains with a red cross on the top. A Hospital had been built on the Town Park. The neighborhood had been taken with out a shot fired, or even a dog barking. Miss Fanny was beside her self. Her yell brought the other four out in night shirts and hair rollers, even Luther was trying to stick his night shirt down in his pants while loading the gun. Miss Fanny snatched the gun from his hands and started for the front porch. Luther looked out the window, swore in front of Miss Fanny for the first time in his life and made her give over the gun, convincing her they were set in to stay a while, best not draw their attention. She ranted and raved, but with the girls sniffling and trying to see, she finally calmed down. Just in time to open the door to a young soldier in Union blue. He introduced him self as Corporal Himmings, sent to make their acquaintance and to give the Commanders word they were there to treat the maimed and dying, not to cause any trouble.
Miss Fanny had the fortitude to ask the young man in and gave him coffee and yesterdays cake left from supper. The young man was much more frightened than Miss Fanny was, and the girls were mortified to be seen in their gowns and hair rollers, the Corporal gave them per mission to go to their room to get dressed, and the same courtesy to the other's. His mission full filled he took his leave. Leaving three speechless adults and two giggling girls in his wake. He had forgotten to search the house for weapons, something he was later made to remember.
The back lanes between the houses were kept busy that day. Between the what if and lord have mercy's the troops might as well have come in cannons booming. The residents soon became acquainted with the officers and the ambulatory young men. Their community went right on as if there was nothing wrong with having a tent city in ones park. The Lady's took mercy on the half starved men and cooked extra for them, soon each family had their regulars for one meal a day, and sent food to the bed bound men. The doctors were happy to have clean whites to start out the day, and got many a lectures of cleanliness being necessary in dealing with an open wound,an argument the doctors could not win. All in all it was a pleasant experience. Right up to the day of Chad's birthday.
Miss Fanny always flew the stars and bars on Chad's birthday which was the first day of June. She had promised him with her last words to him his flag would fly on his birthday and it would, come hell or high water that same summer.
Luther went out after dark to put up a pole, not as long a one as Miss Fanny wanted but the flag would clear the house top. The whole neighborhood was well aware of what was taking place. Early June first every one was looking at Miss Fanny's house. There the Confederate Battle flag stood in the wind in all it's glory.
It could have been seen for miles on the river. Miss Fanny looked for nothing but trouble over the flag ,she got it. Two hours after sun up the Major made his way to Miss Fanny's door. He knocked, she took her time answering.
Asking “what can I do for the the Major this day?”
he said “ I have to demand you take the flag down.” He backed up on the porch and pointed at the flag,
Miss Fanny ask “what flag is that?” She came out as if not having a notion of what he was pointing at, she adjusted her glasses and took a good look.
,” well” she said,” what do you think it is Major?”
the Major said “I don't have a clue as to what it is supposed to be, but it resembles a rag trying to look like a flag."
“Rebel Flag” Miss Fanny retorted,” and who would be flying a Rebel flag in the face of
“The Major answered “I had no idea who would be so foolish.”
He had to take another look, mean while Luther came out.
The Major pointed upward and said “Luther do you see any thing unusual in the sky.?”
Luther took his time he didn't have glasses, stretched his neck, and cussed for the second time in his life in front of Miss Fanny. “Dam if I know Major Sir, looks some what like a home made flag of some sort flying up on that pole."
The Major answered “so you noticed the pole did you? “
Luther replied “yes sir I did say that, might be I am wrong.”
Major "Luther do you think it will be there tomorrow when I leave my tent?”
Luther took another look, said “don't look to solid to me , might be it will fall down in the breeze off the river in the morning.”
Major,” yes I guess it might at that, no use wasting time on something that means to fall down any way now is there Luther?”
Luther hands behind his back “No Sir reckon it would be a waste of a man's time.”
The Major saluted and walked back down the hill to his tent. Miss Fanny was behind the door with the shot gun loaded, Essie had the Mexican sword and the girls had pots of hot water in an up stairs window. With the door shut the five of them had a good laugh. The flag flew all day and nigh, but next morning it was folded neat and orderly lying on the swing. No one ever ask and no one ever told who had the honor of taking down Miss Fanny's flag.
All went well between the civilians and Union Camp through the summer. Miss Fanny had to be on her toes to stay ahead of the girls. Lorie and Lilly were only fourteen and much impressed by the Union soldiers. It didn't matter to them they were on the wrong side of the war, they wore pants and shaved, that was enough for the girls, and proved to incite them to practice all manner of baking. The Major sent some one around to pick up the goodies made for the sick and wounded, not often did Miss Fanny or any of the Ladies go near the camp.
The news they received of the war was very upsetting.
Miss Fanny”The South is all but lost, every one knew it except the South. Soldiers are deserting right and left.”
Two actually spent the night in Miss Fanny's buggy barn in back of the house.
They had come to the kitchen early one morning, half starved and half dressed. Miss Fannie knew by the sound of their voice they were from Georgia. she let them sit at the kitchen table while she cooked breakfast for them.
They told her” the war is all but over, they had no ammunition or horses, the shoes on their feet had worn through, they had enough fighting. Fanny found some of her brothers old clothes in the attic and fitted the two of them out well enough to get them home. They were farmers from up near the Tennessee border.
The stories they had to tell made Fanny shake in her shoes. They also told her “ a lone woman was fighting her own war against the Union, pestering them to death, had killed a few. Said she was from up East Tennessee way, called her Rebel. Miss fanny had heard more than one story about Rebel and doubted very much her existence.
The soldiers set her straight on Rebel being real, said.
“she pulled part of the fence down at Andersonville, let some men out. Every one felt better if they knew Rebel was on the roads. Many a family was saved from starving by this good hearted woman.”
Fanny ask” what does she look.?” like the men just looked at each other.
One said “well she looks like a young boy in them blue jeans and boots, rides a straddle the horse, handy with a knife, whip and .45.”Miss Fanny said “ I hope Rebel comes this way, I would like to shake her hand and thank her.”
They told Miss Fanny she hadn't been seen in these parts in a time.
Miss Fanny didn't tell any one there were guest in the barn just to stay away from there until she told them better. Miss Fanny had heard from a young Union Man about the burning of Atlanta, it came close to breaking the woman's heart. Atlanta was a beautiful town, especially Peach Tree Street, where the fine old homes were.
No one mentioned Tara and Fanny didn't ask, she had spent many a happy week there with the O'Hara's in her youth. The burning of Atlanta made Miss Fanny mad at the Union all over again. She stamped and raged for days with no one knowing why she was so angry.
Fanny got mail as did the others telling how the war was going, certainly not in their favor was all the news she wanted to hear. They got through the fourth Christmas in the river house. Truly this was home to the five of them. The girls got mail from their folks telling them of the atrocities they had witnessed. And how fortunate they were to be in a safe place. No one knew about the medical camp.
No one wanted the Rebels to come there and cause more trouble than they had already been through. All any one wanted was to hear the war was over so they could go home and get on with what ever was left. Miss Fanny said to the girls.
“ I have given you the best I know while you have been in my care, I love you both as if you were born to me but I have to give you up to your parents”
The girls gave her a great hug and told her they loved her and would never forget her and what she had taught them. They said they were better women for having her as a mentor.
When the time came to leave everyone was crying.
The girls were not as anxious for the war to be over as Aunt Fanny was. She had been a horror in the beginning but as time went on they had begun to love each other as family. They loved Luther and Essie Mae as family also. Luther would have laid down his life for either one of them. Miss Fanny had saved him and his wife by taking them in as free slaves and taught them reading and writing, they went to church right by her side and had the best of living conditions. Most free slaves had gone North or dyed trying to get there. He and Essie Mae loved the river village as much as aunt Fanny did and folks treated them the same as she did. The girls dreaded being sent on to yet another boarding school and vowed to go together some place in the south. Fanny wished they could have met Chad. She might have had one of them for a daughter in law some day.
The time finally came in eighteen fifty five when the war was over. Word reached the river village some weeks later. The medical camp had moved out in the night as quietly as they had moved in. No one was sorry to see them go. They had cleaned the park as best as they could but it took weeks for the grass to grow back, the fountains were reconnected and cleaned. Soon the ladies were out walking the narrow road around the park, and the supply boat was coming once a week, bringing supplies and news.
When news came that it was safe to return to their homes the families began to sadly prepare for the return. No one knew what they had to go back to. Luther had removed everything from the house that was moveable, if the house had withstood the Union they at least had a home to go back to. The girls left first, their parents sent a boat for them. They cried when it was time to go, giving hugs to everyone and promising to keep in touch. Aunt Fanny would miss them but she always knew she would have to let them go.
Finally it was Fanny’s time to go, Luther and Essie Mae were sad and declared it was the best place in the world to live. Fanny agreed with them. What lay a head caused many a sleepless night. They went on the river boat with three others families, leaving most of their things behind.
A care taker was hired to keep a watch on the houses. The landing at Atlanta was crowded with family for every one but Fanny. Not one of her men was there, they had not yet returned, their name was not on the prisoner of war list or the death list. They would be along soon Fanny felt sure.
The house was still standing although the worse for wear, some windows and doors would need replacing at once, it was growing cool already. The floors would have to be don over, the walls would need papering and furniture would have to be bought. Luther got help bringing in all he had been able to hide. The big iron stove still stood in the kitchen, the sink and pump was still working. By night fall beds were up with familiar coverings. Luther and Essie Mae were ask to stay in the house. Their house had been badly hit and would need rebuilding, something to do in the spring.
Week after week things got back to normal, fall was turning winter and still no word from the soldiers. Fanny got mail from Lorie and Lilly every few weeks. They were back in school and missed her and the beautiful riverside house very much. Fanny missed them more than she had intended to. She would invite them for a visit in the spring time.
One day Fanny heard horses in the back yard, she went running out to see her father, brother and Chad. Chad was no longer a boy, he was a man grown tall and broad shouldered. Her father was older and bent, this was his last war. Brother was so old looking, thin and haggard. They had lived off the land for five years with the Mexican war behind that, it had taken it’s tole.
Fanny now had another job, bringing her family back to health. She and Essie Mae cooked every good thing they could buy from the market. Some of their own canned food had survived, they had beef and pork which the men had not had for many years. Luther and Essie Mae were ask to continue to live in the house, for their own safety and to help Fanny.
In the spring the girls came for a visit. Lorie and Chad became sweethearts almost at once. He could not believe she had held a bucket of boiling water over a Union Officers head in the valley.
Everyone got a good laugh out of that one. Fanny ask if they had ever heard of a wild girl named Rebel Jo.
Papa “Every one fighting for the cause knows of Rebel Jo, she is alive and as full of grit as any soldier, never met her myself but Chad here did, tell her Chad.”
Chad “ We were locked up in Andersonville, The most horrible place in the world, there were these two men in there one of them nearly dead. One night we were told to be ready for a break, around midnight she rode in, used her horse and rope to pull the fence down. Had horses with her and rode off with the two men. Some said they were her brothers but they had different last names. Anyway about two hundred of us got away. God bless her, far as I have heard she went back to Nashville and is fighting for black rights and against the KKK. Her family didn’t believe in slavery. She gave the Union a hard time and sure saved many a confederate life. Maybe some day some one will write a book about her.”