A True Story from the Civil War

They were Alfred Ferguson, 1822-1906, and Sarah Elizabeth (née) Prance Ferguson, he of Warren County, MS, and she of either Kentucky or Tennessee. During the civil war, Alfred was in his 40’s but he was stove up, and not able to fight; he was at home, near Vicksburg, with his wife Sarah Elizabeth, when General Ulysses S. Grant arrived to surround and blockade Vicksburg. This was a very dangerous time, especially for Rebels of fighting age, crippled up or no. Alfred was out gathering firewood when Union soldiers caught him and brought him, a prisoner, back to where General Grant was. Sarah found out about it. She immediately dug up the things she was hiding from the Union troops: sugar, ham, bacon, flour, syrup, etc. etc. She cooked all night long with the help of her servants, who were still loyal to her.

The next morning, she saddled up two mules. She rode on one. The other, she loaded with all the food she had cooked, including fried chicken. These were all things for which people were being killed, you understand. If anyone had stopped her, she could have been killed just for the biscuits alone. Anyway, she met the sentry at the Union camp and told him she had something for General Grant. General Grant was stunned when she said she had brought the General his breakfast! He hastened to make her welcome and help her down from her mule. As he was helping her down, she added, “But there is just one thing, General – I am used to having my crippled husband eat with me. Would you mind fetching him from among your prisoners that he may breakfast with us?” Yes, ma’am! So Alfred ate with his wife and the general. You realize, of course, that the Rebels would have shot her for this, just as the Union soldiers might have shot her themselves for the food if they were scoundrels.

After the meal, Sarah Elizabeth Ferguson gets up and says, “Now General Grant, my husband is just another mouth for you to feed. I now have an extra mule, the one I brought your breakfast with. Why don’t you just let me load up my husband and we will go and trouble you no further.” And that is exactly what happened. Against all the odds and all the laws and rules, and probably his own lieutenants, General Grant let this Southern lady take her husband home. True love knows no bounds.

The reason I know about this is that Sarah Elizabeth Prance Ferguson was my great-great-grandmother.

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