Tom Watson, Agrarian Rebel

By C. Vann Woodward | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
The Heritage

ONE, DECEMBER MORNING in 1863 a diminutive, red-headed boy sat astride a large bay mare at the railway station of Thomson, Georgia. Waiting there for his grandfather's mail, he watched a locomotive puff by pulling a string of freight cars filled with Yankee prisoners on their way to Augusta.

"They passed through the town with defiant laughter, with ringing cheers, and with the resounding song of ' John Brown's body lies mouldering in the grave, but his soul is marching on.'"1 The sight of so many Blue Coats was exciting enough for a boy of seven, but the astonishing thing about these prisoners was their gayety.

Tom Watson was old enough to remember the gay fanfare of patriotism and confident gallantry with which his father and his two uncles had set off to whip the Yankees. Now in December of the third year of war, months after Gettysburg, he felt in place of that old buoyancy and debonair confidence a pervading mood of despondence and melancholy. For him the change was echoed in the songs the people sang, in the plaintive, wailing refrain that repeated itself in the popular songs of 1863: in "Lorena," in "Kitty Wills," in "Juanita," in "Just Before the Battle, Mother," in "When This Cruel War Is Over.""It gave one the shivers," he remembered.2 The contrast

____________________
1
Thomas E. Watson, Bethany, p. 365.
2
Ibid., p. 364.

-1-

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