The Garys In The War 

The following story is written by Mrs. Fannie R. Gary about her husband’s family during the Civil War and published in the Ocala Evening Star on May 15, 1905. It was originally written for the memorial edition of the Times-Union.

     When the War Between the States began, my husband, S. M. Gary, a lawyer of Ocala, Fla., Was the eldest of six brothers, two of whom, John H. and William F., were students in the South Carolina College, at Columbia. John H. was elected captain of the college cadets who volunteered to go to the taking of Fort Sumter and William T. was elected a Lieutenant. Captain John H. was killed at Battery Wagner, Charleston Harbor, in 1863, while in command of a company of artillery of the regular Confederate States Army. William T. served thro’ the war and died in Augusta, Ga., in 1904. He was judge of the circuit court and had many honors conferred upon him by his countrymen.

Another brother, M. W. Gary, a lawyer of Edgefield, S. C., with the first tocsin of war proceeded to raise a company, was elected captain, joined the Holcombe Legion, commanded by Colonel Wade Hampton, which did heroic service in the first battle of Manassas, where Lieutenant Johnson was killed, Colonel Hampton wounded and Captain Couner disabled. Captain Gary then took command and was in the hardest of the fighting around the Henry House. He was in most of the battles of Virginia and before the close of the war was commissioned a major general.

He was never wounded, never taken prisoner, never surrendered, never paroled, and his command was never in a battle in which he was not present to lead them. He was one of President Davis’ escorts from Greensboro, N. C. to Cokesbury, S. C. where the President and his cabinet spent the night at the home of his mother and where they determined to go on without any large body of soldiers to attract attention. Here in his native village and at the home of his mother, General Gary’s career as a soldier was ended.


Early in the war a fourth brother of my husband, Dr. Thomas P. Gary, of Florida, volunteered and was appointed a surgeon in the Confederate States Army, followed by the fifth brother, Dr. F. F. Gary, of South Carolina, who was also appointed a surgeon and stationed at Charleston.

My husband was a member of the Florida convention that passed the ordinance of succession and held himself in readiness to enter the service of the Confederacy whenever men of his age were called for, till then he felt that with five brothers in the field, his wife and four small children, a widowed mother and two young sisters had claims on him. But when the army was depleted and reinforcements were called for, they said to him: “Go, your country needs you now, and we will trust the God of battles to take care of us.” He raised a company, was elected captain and was for a time, stationed on the west coast of Florida; afterwards his company participated in the battle of Olustee and subsequently being incorporated in the Ninth Florida regiment, commanded by Colonel John M. Martin, was sent to Virginia.

To be with him and to be with relatives, I went to Cokesbury, S. C. There my household consisted of myself, four children and four servants. The small pay of a soldier in the army was inadequate to our support, so after a time, my husband got a furlough and returned to Florida to try and turn some of his possessions into money. Mr. E. J Harris, a gentleman too old to be in the army, had a tannery in Ocala. From him my husband purchased a large roll of sole leather, which he brought to me to exchange for provisions.

Flour was then $800 per barrel and everything else in proportion, but my sole leather was in so great demand, that I easily procured flour, hams, lard, corn (which I had ground into meal as occasion demanded), potatoes, syrup and anything else produced by the farmer. That roll of sole leather, with chicken, eggs and vegetables from a small garden furnished our living until the close of the war. Having disposed of most of my tableware before I left Florida, a generous relative gave me a few pieces of china, to which I added six tin plates, as bright as new silver, for which I paid $10 apiece. For clothing for my four growing children I was fortunate enough to procure some factory thread from a factory near Greenville, S. C., part of which my cousin, Mrs. William Goldsmith, had dyed with indigo, raised on her plantation and this I had woven into little blue checks to make suits for them. I had refurnished my own wardrobe before I left Florida by the purchase of goods that had run the blockade from Cuba.

In October the ladies formed a Soldiers’ Aid Society, with Mrs. Marion B. Taylor. This society sent several boxes of clothing, blankets, etc., to the soldiers. After we had sent all the blankets we could spare, we cut up our woven carpets and sent them on.

Old linen was scrapped into lint and sent to the hospitals. Our pastime in those days was knitting socks for the soldiers. In Cokesburry, I was a member of a society which sent every day, three or four of its members to the railroad station with baskets of provisions to feed sick or wounded soldiers going on furlough to their homes, or returning to camps. How grateful these half-famished men were for help thus bestowed.


During the four years of that war I saw four of the enemy. These were wounded men captured on the east coast of Florida in a fight with a blockader, I think, and brought to Ocala till their wounds healed sufficiently for them to be sent on to be paroled on exchange.

The ladies of Ocala, wishing to obey the teachings of the Bible, called at the improvised hospital and carried them some delicacies—fresh milk, eggs and fruit thinking the time might come when some of our own loved ones might be wounded prisoners.

After the burning of Columbia, we expected Sherman’s army to pass thro’ Cokesbury and we buried our silver and jewels and secreted provisions for an emergency, but a heavy rain, swollen rivers and washed away bridges, with the intervention of General Cheatam’s corps, Confederate State Army, below Newberry, caused him to change his course, so that we escaped the devastation of his army. Just before this the governor of South Carolina had called on patriotic planters to send negroes to work on fortifications in the lower part of the state. My uncle, Col. B. F. Griffin, sent four of his strong, reliable negro men to aid in the work. As they were returning home they fell in with Sherman’s army and were carried into his presence. He questioned them closely to get all the information from them that would be of use to him and then told them he would carry them to freedom. They replied, “No sah, we had a good massa and our wives and children are on de ole plantation and dats whar we want to go, sah.” Sherman told them they might go and to tell their “massa” he would be along there in a little while. But to our great relief, owing to the change in his course, he never came that way.

When President Davis came through Cokesbury, he and his cabinet and other prominent followers were entertained at the homes of the citizens, but some of the Texas troops with him slept in their tents for the nights. So great was the desire of the people to shake hands with Mr. Davis that many ladies, carrying flowers, called, after tea, to pay respects to him and to inquire if all was lost. There were few men in the place, they not having yet returned from the army.

We endeavored to find some rift in the clouds that overhung our dear Confederacy. Mr. Davis seemed cheerful, but evaded the discussion of plans for the future. Thenceforth the Southern Confederacy became to us a sad, but glorious memory.

Fannie R. Gary

Transcribed , Formatted and Submitted by Linda Flowers

This Page Created December 18, 2011
Copyrighted 2011- Linda Flowers
Return To: Marion Home     Return To: FLGW