I found this article fascinating and wanted to share it. When I read it, I learned a lot about our American history and what happened in the South after the Civil War ended. I find it especially interesting because my next novel delves into the issues of Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan, and Western expansion. I only hope I can find a publisher who doesn’t shy away from it, even though, now apparently, the Confederacy has become controversial and taboo. Hopefully, I can find a publisher who can take the heat! If you know of one, please refer me to them.
by Dr. Samuel W. Mitcham
Dr. Samuel W. Mitcham was a U.S. Army helicopter pilot during the Viet Nam War who graduated from the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College, and is qualified through the rank of major general. He is the author of more than 40 books, several of which were History or Military History Book Club Selections.
On occasion, women became heroines of the Confederate cause purely by accident. Such is the case of Emma Sansom.
Born on June 2, 1847, Emma was a beautiful girl, tall and elegant, with large, deep blue eyes, auburn hair, and a fair complexion. In 1852, she moved with her family from Georgia to Gadsden, Alabama. Six years later, her father died, but the family managed to maintain their farm. Once the Civil War commenced, Emma’s brother, Rufus, enlisted with the 19th Alabama Infantry Regiment while she, her mother, and an older sister ran the farm.
Emma had just returned from shopping one sunny morning when suddenly, she heard the sound of approaching men and horses. Still standing in the yard, holding the reins, she watched as hundreds of Union soldiers arrived.
“We were home on the morning of May 2, 1863, when a company of men wearing blue uniforms and riding mules and horses galloped past the house and went on towards the bridge. Pretty soon a great crowd of them came along and some of them stopped at the gate and asked for some water. One of them asked me where my father was and I told him he was dead.
‘Do you have any brothers?’ asked the Yankee soldier.
‘I have, sir,’ I said.
‘Where are they?’
‘In the Confederate army,’ I told him.
‘Do you think the South will whip us?’
‘What do you think?’
‘I think we will win because God is on our side,’ I said.
‘I think God is on the side with the best artillery,’ said the soldier.”
Emma stubbornly held onto her horse’s reins until another soldier snatched them away from her.
Still, the women refused to panic. The soldiers searched their house for guns and saddles. Discovering Rufus, who was home recuperating from a wound he had received, they took him prisoner. The Yankees proceeded to nearby Black Creek, which was swollen from recent heavy rains, and torched the wooden bridge. The women were standing on the front porch, grieving Rufus, when Nathan Bedford Forrest appeared.
“Can you tell me where I can get across this damn creek?” he asked.
Fifteen-year-old Emma told him that the bridge had been burned, and that there wasn’t another one for two miles. She informed him of a ford two hundred yards away where she had seen cattle cross in low water, and where he and his men could likely cross, despite the raging current. Emma offered to escort him if one of his men would saddle a horse for him.
Forrest replied, “There is no time to saddle a horse; get up here behind me.”
Taking her hand, he pulled her up behind him on his steed, and assured her mother that he would return Emma safely. The duo rode down to the riverbank, but came under enemy fire, so they rode into the foliage and dismounted. Finding the spot she had referred to, they emerged from the cover of trees, and were once again fired upon.
Emma placed herself in front of Forrest. “General,” she said, “stand behind me. They will not dare to shoot me.”
Forrest, being the gallant cavalier that he was, refused. “I’m glad to have you for a pilot, but I’m not going to make breastworks of you.”
He left her under cover behind the roots of a fallen tree. Crawling on his hands and knees, he looked back behind him, and saw that she had followed. With some consternation, he confronted her about going against his wishes.
“Yes, General,” she said, “but I was fearful that you might be wounded; and it’s my purpose to be near you.”
Defiantly, she waved her bonnet in the air. The Union soldiers on the other side realized they had been shooting at a female, so they immediately dropped their weapons and gave three cheers. Emma started for home, but soon came upon General Forrest again. He told her that one of his men, who had been killed, was laid out in her house, and requested that her family bury him in a nearby graveyard. After asking that she send him a lock of her hair, he rode off to later become victorious in the campaigning. By bluffing the Yankees into believing his troops were larger in number, he succeeded in capturing Colonel Abel Streight’s Union forces. He also returned Emma’s brother to her.
Emma could have faced severe retribution for aiding General Forrest. She escaped from her close call unscathed, except for a few bullet holes that had passed through her skirt.
“They have only wounded my crinoline,” she casually remarked.
Forrest was so grateful for Emma’s heroic gesture that he gave her a note of thanks:
Hed Quaters in Sadle
May 2 1863
My highest regardes to miss Emma Sansom for hir Gallant conduct while my posse was skirmishing with the Federals across Black Creek near Gadsden Allabama.
N. B. Forrest
Brig Genl Comding N. Ala
After the war, the state of Alabama awarded Emma with a gold medal, and awarded her a section of public land “as a testimony of the high appreciation of her services by the people of Alabama.”
She married in 1864, moved with her husband to Texas, and had five sons and two daughters. Emma died on August 9, 1900, and is buried in Little Mound Cemetery, twelve miles west of Gilmer, Texas. Her legacy lives on in a poem written by John Trotwood Moore. In 1946, she was featured in a comic book called “Real Heroes.”A monument was erected by the UDC in her honor, and a school is named after her. Both are in Gadsden, Alabama.
I have been following this story ever since I left Memphis in 2013. The Memphis City Council is full of crazies, and found a way to destroy some of its Confederate history by selling three parks to a conjured up company called Greenspace. The parks were sold for a fraction of their worth, and century-old statues were removed. The parks’ names were also changed. Now, finally, Greenspace has been called out.
“2018-08-14 Memphis update We Win in court!!!
Heritage and Forrest supporters,
In a Chancery Court ruling issued Monday, Aug 13, the court ruled in our favor that Memphis Greenspace and the city indeed violated the previously set injunction against them in regard to the Memphis Confederate statues.
Though a small victory it none the less sent a giant message that the SCV continues the fight to bring the City and Greenspace to justice.
The Chancellor ruled that the defendants are again strictly prohibited from disturbing the Forrest statue pedestal, graves, granite plaza, and everything else in Forrest Park. They are also prohibited from moving, selling, or disturbing the memorial statues of Forrest, Jefferson Davis, and Capt Mathes. They are also prohibited from soliciting invitation to remove, sell, give, or otherwise move the statues from their current warehouse location.
The Chancellor additionally ruled that the four Confederate cannons (for which the SCV now has taken possession) and the historical markers in Confederate Park (Memphis Park) are not covered by the original injunction due to insufficient wording in the original January injunction. These were a WWI monument, three state markers and one UDC marker, and others.
The chancellor further ruled in the final two paragraphs that the defendants did specifically violate the court’s injunction. Further action will follow.
This was a solid victory for us and sustains our battle to protect our heritage.
On behalf of the Forrest Camp, and our ancestors everywhere, I thank you for the continued support and financial aid.
Please mail donations to:
Citizens to Save Our Parks, P.O. Box 241875, Memphis, TN 38124
(Courtesy The Southern Comfort, publication of Private Samuel A. Hughey Camp 1452 President Jefferson Davis Chapter, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Military Order of the Stars and Bars, Volume 42, Issue No. 9, http://www.scfcamp1452.com, Sept. 2018 ed.)