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Confederate Greenbacks

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Following is a chapter from the book "Confederate Greenbacks," written by Julia Tigner Noland about the death of her cousin, Carrie Vaughan Inman.  Carrie was five years old at her death, and Julia, the storyteller, was twelve years old.

Carrie's gravesite is located on the grounds of Wilkinson County High School, in Woodville, Mississippi.  When I came across her grave a few years ago, I wondered what had caused this little girl's death.  Had she been a frail child?  Was there some sort of epidemic or fever?  While reading "Confederate Greenbacks," I learned the truth.

The Death of Little Carrie Vaughan: born 10 October 1881, died 10 June 1887

It was late spring.  Papa was at home because of a recess in the Legislature, and we were enjoying his company immensely.  Cousin Addie had left her children with her mother, Aunt Liza, while she went with her husband, Mr. Inman, to look after some business at one of their plantations which was about twenty-five miles distant.  Inez was at our house listening to the tales of adventure with which Papa was entertaining us on the front gallery.

We could look through our hedge from where we sat and see Aunt Liza carrying Little Carrie Vaughan down to the blackberry patch in a little glen at the foot of the back slope to Aunt Liza's house.  It was a perfect spring beauty of a day, and the scene before us was tranquil and happy.

Suddenly, we heard screams for help from the blackberry patch, and we hastened there to see what had happened.  Aunt Liza's servants were there ahead of us.  Charity was carrying Little Carrie Vaughan in her arms.  There was a small pricked place on the child's leg.

"What is the matter?" we all gasped.

"Something has bitten Little Carrie Vaughan.  She said that I pinched her.  I don't know what is was and I don't know what to do!  I'm afraid it was a snake." she wept.

"Wait, Charity!" called Papa.

He ran toward the servant carrying the child, and when he had reached them we could see him sucking on the little pricked spot above the child's ankle.  He spat the fluid upon the ground.

We children followed Aunt Liza to the house, and all the way she kept praying softly that it was not a rattler or a poisonous moccasin.  Papa sent Al for the doctor.  Aunt Liza sent her driver over the Ft. Adams Road for Cousin Addie and Mr. Inman.

The servants began heating water.  Papa made a stiff toddy and gave it to Little Carrie Vaughan.  By that time Mama was there and she and Aunt Liza bathed the child's ankle in hot cloths while they awaited the arrival of the doctor.

In spite of all that had been done and all the doctor knew to do, Little Carrie Vaughan began turning blue and limp, and in no time she was dead and turning black.  We children were terrified at the suddenness and the awfulness of death, and we flew to Papa for protection.  My heart was beating as Peek-a-boo's heart beat that day Nolie captured him.

Poor Aunt Liza!  She was doubly stricken.  Her own grandchild whom she loved dearly and whose care had been entrusted to her that day!  And the grief which would be the mother's when she learned of it would again come to Aunt Liza!  She paced the floor and would not be comforted.

Late into the night everyone listened for the sound of Cousin Addie's carriage.  Aunt Liza was almost dead herself, and nearly out of her mind.  She kept saying, "Don't tell Addie her darling is dead."  Papa said one thing that finally brought her to something of a calm state.

"Do you want your daughter to have two sorrows?  The loss of her baby and the loss of her mother?  Well, she is going to lose her mother if you don't pull yourself together."

Then Papa went out in to the yard and cried for what he had been forced to say to Aunt Liza.

Papa had sent Bessie with Al into Woodville for the casket and to bring the undertaker back with them.  They arrived home at dusk with the undertaker and a beautiful white casket.  Bessie brought white china silk to make a funeral dress for Little Carrie Vaughan.  She spent most of the night making this last garment for the child.

We children were put to sleep on pallets on the floor in the big hall.  We were restless and kept tossing about.  Sometimes we got up and sat with the others who were waiting for Cousin Addie.

As the birds outside began their early morning twitterings, we heard wheels crunching on the gravel in the driveway, and then the expected flurry in the drive and the steps of Cousin Addie coming up the long wide gallery.  She came into the hall where we were standing.  No one could say a word.  Aunt Liza took Cousin Addie in her arms and they sobbed together.

"Don't tell me, " said Cousin Addie.  "I knew it sometime in the night.  Little Darling is dead."

"Yes!" was all Aunt Liza could say.

Together they went into the parlour where Little Carrie Vaughan, dressed in the garment Bessie had just finished making, was lying peacefully, but cold and dark, in her little casket.  She was holding a bouquet of star jessamine in her little hands.  Bessie had thought of that and put them there.  She looked like an exquisite little waxen figure, too tragic for me to comprehend the fullness of that tragedy until years later when I lost my own child.

Cousin Addie knelt beside the casket.  She could only look.  Not a tear!  Her long weary ride and her grief made the loss of her baby more than mere tears could express.

Mama led her away, gave her some warm milk and put her to bed.  Bessie took us home where Mammy Celie put us all to bed.  Mama and Papa kept a sad vigil by the little angel for the remaining hours of the morning.

The little grave was dug in the family cemetery somewhat distant from our home.  Annelise and I went up to the cemetery in the morning and found the new open grave near the covered graves of Grandma and Grandpa Tigner, who had been resting there before the War Between the States was over.

The funeral was in the late afternoon.  Cousin Addie could not let it be sooner, she said.

The Episcopal minister at Woodville led a little group, which was made up of the two families and a few near-by friends, who had received the news of the death, and the colored folks of both families.  Behind the minister came Papa and Hal carrying the front of the casket.  Will and one of Mr. Inman's sons by his first marriage were carrying the rear end of the casket.  Cousin Addie and Mr. Inman followed close behind.  Then came the families, and last the colored folks.  The little casket was lowered in to the grave.

No one could speak.  The minister said only the few words that were spoken, and we all stood, sobbing softly.  Al and some of the other servants began to cover up the little grave.  Only then did we turn and start slowly back to our house.  Mammy Celie had some hot coffee for us.

The short, simple funeral was most impressive to me; it was my first time to attend a funeral, and my grief for my own kin and playmate was real.  The awfulness of the death and the surety of words of the minister impressed me so with sadness that for months I could not forget the scenes I had witnessed.  They kept recurring to me, over and over.