A Pile of Cotton and a Lighted Pine Knot

Angeline was out behind her house stirring the family’s clothes in the hot, soapy water in her iron washtub.  Suddenly 54-year-old Jeremiah*, one of her most trusted slaves, came running up the path toward her.

“Union soldiers are coming up the bayou!” he shouted, nearly out of breath.  Jeremiah had discovered that a runaway slave had gone over to the Union Army to reveal that the Guice plantation had large amounts of ginned, unbaled cotton. The Guices had been unable to sell it since the beginning of the war because of the Confederate embargo and Union blockades.

Elbert and Angeline Guice, 1862

And it wasn’t long until a boat drew up to a landing on Brushley Bayou near her home.  The Union officer and several soldiers stepped out of the boat — they had come to take her cotton.

It was the spring of 1864 and Union troops were making their way through Louisiana. One objective of the Union Army’s new Red River Campaign was to secure large quantities of Louisiana and Texas cotton for northern mills. The year before, several Union gunboats had attempted to make it up the Ouachita (wash-i-taw) River but were turned back at Fort Beauregard in Catahoula Parish, not far from the Guice Plantation.

Cornelia Anna Guice

Elbert Guice, Angeline’s husband, was away from home carrying out his duties as a paymaster for the Confederate troops. She had been doing what she could to maintain some semblance of order around their plantation since the war began, but it was getting increasingly difficult to do with Elbert away. Cornelia, the Guice’s oldest child, was well-educated and helped conduct classes for her nine younger sisters and brothers.

Before the war the Guices owned 30 slaves — half of which were 15 or older in 1860. Many of their slaves had run away after Pres. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but Jeremiah and 27-year-old “Aunt Hester” stayed and helped the family.

As the officer walked over to the wooden structure housing the loose cotton, Angeline laid down her washing pole, wiped the sweat from her brow, and walked resolutely toward the officer.  As she approached him he said, “Ma’am, we have come to take your cotton.”

She calmly, but adamantly said, “I will never let you have a lock of it to make gun-wadding for killing our people.”

“I will take what I have come for despite your protests,” stated the officer.

With that she asked Jeremiah to hand her a lighted pine-knot.  Without taking her eyes off the face of the Union officer, she threw the flaming pine-knot into the pile of cotton.  It gave a “whoof” and was on fire immediately.

The officer was furious.  With disdain he looked at Angeline and said, “Well Ma’am, since you like a fire, I’ll make one, too.”  He made everyone get out of her house and then ordered his soldiers to set it on fire.

She and her children stood helplessly by and watched their home burn to the ground.  All of their possessions went up in flames before their eyes. Oh how she wished Elbert was with them!

After the soldiers left, the family searched the smoldering rubble for anything of use or value.  All they could redeem was a plate or two and some pieces of pottery.  Neighbors gave them what they could each could spare, but at this point in the war no one had much.

The family planned to make a home in the overseer’s cabin until Elbert came back home.  But Elbert would not be coming home. He died of a sudden illness on December 9, 1864 while on his way to Army headquarters. He was found days later in a warped old cabin in Red Chute, LA near Shreveport with his horse waiting outside.  His body was taken home for burial.

Charles Guice

Living in the damp and cramped overseer’s cabin took its toll on the family as well.  Ten days after Elbert died, 10-year-old Charles died.  Angeline had lost her home, her husband, and her son in a matter of months. Such sadness and heartache is hard to imagine.

When the war ended in April of 1865 and Cornelia’s newlywed husband Benjamin Kitchen came home from the service, he found the family still living in the overseer’s cabin.

Benjamin took on much of the responsibility of providing for the family and became tutor for the children as well.  But the post-war Reconstruction years were very difficult so they decided to move to Union Church, MS to live with relatives.

After several years, believing they could make a better life in Texas, they loaded a wagon and made stops in Natchez, MS and back in Harrisonburg, LA to visit relatives before moving on.  They even made a stop in the little town of Red Chute, LA where Elbert had been found in the cabin.

Hester Robinson

“Aunt Hester” Robinson and her husband eventually moved to Texas and lived near them because she grieved for “the folks.”

In 1877, twelve years after their move from their war-torn home place, Angeline died from an accidental overdose of morphine which the druggist had mislabeled as quinine.  Angeline Jones Guice, born in Tennessee, is buried in the Elmo Cemetery near Terrell, Texas.

Elbert Hampton Guice and Angeline Jones Guice are my great-great grandparents.

*The name Jeremiah is a fictional name given to a devoted slave of the Guices.

© 2011 Melinda Holloway All Rights Reserved

9 thoughts on “A Pile of Cotton and a Lighted Pine Knot

  1. Even though this story is sad, I still like it very much. I love the way Angeline just said out plainly, “I will never let you have a lock of it to make gun-wadding for killing our people.”
    I love these stories!🙂

  2. Thanks! I’m enjoying writing these stories especially because they are true. As I do research I’m always amazed at the resilience and fortitude our ancestors had. It makes me realize how easy times are for us.

  3. I want to say thank you for this information
    I have been searching and trying to learn more about the history of my name “Guice”
    so if you can tell me more about the plantation and where it is located and if it still exist.
    Thank you again

  4. Gregory, the plantation which is no longer there was located south of Harrisonburg, LA near a crossroads called Wallace Ridge.

    This is out of my genealogy notes about Elbert Guice:

    “Elbert was born in Hamburg, MS in 1817 and moved to Harrisonburg, LA in 1852 after the death of his father, Jacob. He married Angeline Jones of Tensas Parish at the home of L.B. Morris. In Harrisonburg he was a planter and possibly operated a sawmill and mule stables. He owned approx. 600 acres south of Harrisonburg at Wallace Ridge on Bushly Bayou. In the 1860 Census, Elbert was listed as a planter, residing in Wallace Ridge, living next door to his mother, Susanna, and had property valued at $40,000.”

    Most of his land was in separate sections all located in the same general area. One section is right on the bayou so I am assuming that is where the house was located.

    Do you think you are related to Elbert?

    • Hello, I tie to your Guice line and truly appreciate your sharing this oral history. Some of my folks are buried in the Guice Cemetery (aka Martin & Guice Cem.,) in Hamburg, Franklin Co. MS. I am going to look up your Elbert in the “Christopher Guice in America” book by Julia Guice.

  5. I purchased a Civil War Diary wriiten by Ella Jane Guice who, by what I can tell was a daughter of Elbert Guice. The Diary tells of many interesting events including the story of her Mother, Angeline burning the cotton in front of the Union Officer. I am originally from Wallace Ridge, and graduated from Harrisonburg High. I now live in Monroe, and would like to obtain some information from anyone in the area concerning this family. Thanks for your help.

    Terry D. Ford

    • If you want to go back on that line, try to find a genealogy library that has a cc of “The Christopher Guice Family in America” by Julia Guice who is the authority on that line. The book is out of print. You can occasionally find a cc to buy on Amazon, but it will be expensive!

      All I know about the Guice line that went to LA is in the book.

      Good luck!
      Jewel Bragg

  6. There is no doubt in my mind that our people communed back in “the day”. This is how I think we connect:

    My gggg-grandfather, Christopher Columbus Campbell, b. 1808 migrated to Hamburg, Franklin Co., MS in abt. 1840 from SC. He married wife #2, Melinda Caroline Guice, b. 1826, dau of Absolom Christopher Guice & Rosannah Elizabeth Magee. Absolom’s father was Jacob Guice b. 5/26/1767 in NC (m. Mary Elizabeth Beckley).

    I think he is also your Jacob Guice b. 6/1/1879 who fathered Jacob Guice b. 6/1/1789.

    My CCC was a medical doctor and a Methodist preacher in Hamburg. He also had a general store and was the first post master of Hamburg. He attended Mt. Carmel Methodist Ch. and was a member of the SB Stampley Masonic Lodge. His son Columbus Washington Campbell m. Mary Elizabeth Compton who also descended from your Guice line. I see your Guice folks were Methodists and moved to Union Church, Jefferson Co, MS. My other relatives lived there at the same period of time: William H. Bowen whose son, John Bishop Bowen was a Meth. preacher.


    Jewel Bragg
    Mobile, AL

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