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Friday, December 18, 2009

NASHVILLE BELLES SEE THE ELEPHANT

Notes: “Fancy woman” is 19th century slang for a mistress or prostitute. “Seeing the elephant” is Civil War slang for the first experience of combat.

From: H-Net US Civil War History discussion list:
Date: Thursday, December 17, 2009 8:34 AM

A Little Known Story about the Battle of Nashville (December 15-16, 1864)

Two of the fancy women of College Street went out on Friday [16th] to see the fight. By some means their carriage got outside of the picket lines and inside the rebel lines before they were aware of the fact. Seeing Rebel soldiers about, they ordered the hackman to “bout ship” and put for town, but before he could do so, the carriage was surrounded by Rebel cavalry, who took the establishment in charge, believing the occupants were spies.

They were sent to the rear and placed under guard, where they remained until the retreat commenced, and then they were ordered to move southward, another nymph du pave having in the meantime been picked up and placed in the same hack. At length the horses gave out -- they could no longer draw the load through the mud; so three cavalrymen were ordered to take them in charge. The women protested, and begged consideration for their laces and valuable silk dresses, but without avail. They were compelled to evacuate the carriage and mount in front or behind the riders as each preferred, and thus they entered Franklin, literally covered with mud. They were placed under guard at a hotel, and closely questioned by an officer, who seemed at a loss t know what to do with them, whether to send them south as spies, or send them adrift.

At length, on Saturday [17th], the Federal cavalry came thundering along, and the women were left in their room. On Sunday night [18th] they arrived here, one of them riding behind a Federal guard, and the other two riding an old mule, and thus they were landed at the door of the Provost Marshal’s office, who, after taking evidence of their identity, discharged them.

[Nashville Dispatch, December 22, 1864.]

James B. Jones, Jr. D.A.
Public Historian
Editor, The Courier
Tennessee Historical Commission
2941 Lebanon Rd.
Nashville, TN 37243-0442
615-532-1550 ext. 115
http://www.tennessee.civilwarsourcebook.com

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