Tennessee Mountain Stories

Caroline and the Yankees

This story out of Callie Myers Meltons’ “Pon my Honor” originated with the Nashville Tennessean although neither date nor issue is given.

My Great-grandma, Caroline Young Parson, had been left a widow in 1860 for her old man, Great-grandpa John C. Parsons had died of typhoid fever when the four children was just young’uns  With four young’uns and no pa or brothers to help her, Caroline, like all the women of her time and place, had to stand on her own two feet.  Living alone in such perilous times and under such circumstances would have broke most people, but not Caroline.  She not only tended the crops, and hunted the woods for wild game, she spun and wove and worked as a tailor to keep the body and soul of her family together.  But many of a night she set up all night with a loaded gun across her lap to protect what was hers from the bushwhackers from both sides who constantly raided back and forth across the Tennessee-Kentucky border.

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But finally the War come to an end.  The soldiers from both sides started to straggle back home through the area.  After the long years of the War, there wasn’t much for the Johnny Rebs to come home to, nor was there much for the Yanks and the carpet-baggers to crow over…

One evening Caroline went down to the spring for a bucket of water.  Just as she turned around from dipping up the water, three Yankee soldiers stepped out of the bushes and blocked her path 

With a smirk on his bearded face and a broad wink to his two companions, one of the men swept off his ragged old blue cap, bowed low to the scared woman and said, “Ma’am, how far is it from here to where I’m going?”

Caroline looked the three up and down.  They were indeed as motly a three as she had ever laid her two eyes on.  But one thing the war had taught her that she couldn’t forget…the women of the South could fight as well as the men  So armed only the gourd dipper which she had been using to dip up the water to fill her bucket, Caroline pulled herself to her full five feet and two inches and said, “Three lengths of a fool, Sir.  And iffen you don’t believe hit, jest lay down and measure hit.”

Amid the guffaws of his two companions, the Yankee soldier put his old cap back on his head, saluted the small southern woman who had just won the skirmish.  Then without even one backwards look, the  three tired soldiers shouldered their rifles and headed on up toward the Kentucky Line and point further North.