Thursday, June 16, 2016

M. P. Kelley's Furlough

© Kathy Duncan, 2016


Mansel Pinkney Kelley had a furlough in early 1865. He used it to return to his home in Kershaw County, South Carolina. This occurred at the same time that Sherman's troops were marching through South Carolina.

According to family tradition, Sherman and his men were headquartered at the Kelly home because they could not cross Lynches Creek which was swollen with flood water, so they had to build pontoons to move the troops across. According to the story, Sherman had taken over the house for three days. Research reveals that while Union officers were headquartered at Kelly's house during this period, Sherman was not one of them.

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According to the story, members of the family feared what would become of Pink if he returned to the house. One of the slave women picked up a bucket and told the soldiers that she was going to get water. Instead, she hid herself in the woods along the route that she thought Pink would take to the house and warned him to stay away. This action is credited with saving his life. Research revealed that the woman who waved his life was English Brown's mother Rachel.

Union soldiers, so the story goes, searched the Kelly's property looking for valuables. The family had placed their valuables in a trunk and buried it in the top of fresh grave. My grandmother's version of the story was that the soldiers took a rod from a wagon and ran it into the ground and hit the top of the trunk which was too close to the surface of the ground. Her sister Erma's version was that the soldiers forced the slaves to lay down on the ground and then fired at their feet until one of them agreed to show them were the valuables were. When the trunk was discovered and dug up, the soldiers rifled through it and threw what they did not want on the ground. Based on other accounts of the pillaging of homes in the area, notably Mary Chestnut's diary, these soldiers probably only wanted gold or silver.

These soldiers were probably some of the foragers who were pilfering food and valuables from all of the farms and homes in the area and in some instances burning buildings.

Unable to return to his home, Pink kept himself busy in other ways. Oscar J. Smyrl recounted his father Robert Love Smyrl's memory of events:

"Soldiers returning home were ready to fight. Two veterans of this area who actively expressed revenge against the enemy invaders were Pink Kelley, the great-uncle of Steve Kelly, (present Kershaw County Treasurer), and John Sessions, grandfather of E.L. "Shorty" Sessions (present member of the Kershaw County Council). These two men were on furlough in the area before the arrival of Sherman's troops. When they heard that some of Sherman's men were to cross the ferry above Liberty Hill, they rode to meet and spy upon the enemy troops. One of them was armed with a rifle and one with a shotgun loaded with buckshot, and each carried sidearms. They saw two advance soldiers quite a distance ahead of the main detachment. They decided to meet them face to face and planned that each was to shoot the man on his side of the road. The one carrying the rifle fired just before the one with the shotgun. The sound of the rifle, which killed its victim, caused the horse on the other side of the road to rear its head. The blast from the shotgun caught the horse in the nose. The rider gave up and was taken captive and brought to my grandfather's yard. My father state the injured horse had a long rope of clotted blood hanging from his nose. When asked what they planned to do with the captive, Kelly and Sessions said that they were taking him to Camden to put him in jail. To this the Yankee replied, "If you do, I will not be there very long because when my commanding officer reaches Camden, he will immediately release me." It was never known whether he was incarcerated or not.

Following this, Kelly and Sessions spent most of their time in the woods and swamps. At each opportunity they clipped up to the enemy camps at night, emptied their guns at them, and took off. People in the community supplied them with food and ammunition. During Potter's Raid, in the vicinity of Boykin, they visited his camp at night and once again emptied their guns and took off. On several occasions some of the Yankees left stationed there came by our home searching for men."


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Potter's Raid in the vicinity Boykin, was the Battle of Boykin Mill, fought on April 18, 1865 after the war was officially over. It was the last battle fought in South Carolina, and it was where the last union officer lost his life.

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