story is the property of Mrs. Seaton Grantland Tinsley and cannot be
reproduced without permission.
S. G. Tinsley (Mrs. Seaton Grantland Tinsley) whose maiden name was
Frances 'Fannie' William Gaines (of Gaines Mill) wrote the following
account of her Civil War experience. Both she and Seaton Grantland
Tinsley were born in 1836 and they were married in 1860. The time of
this story is May 1862. The Union Army had moved in just outside of
Richmond, Virginia and took over the Gaines' residence for an
observation point. They launched a balloon called the 'Intrepid' each
day and an officer would ascend in the balloon to watch activities in
Richmond. Mr. Tinsley was in Richmond so Fanny was staying with her
parents at Gaines' Mill.
Gaines Mill as it was in 1940, not the original mill
mill that was standing at the time of the Battle of Gaines Mill was a
four story brick structure. William Gaines' house and other structures
on the property were all of brick. The mill pond was about 35 acres at
that time and in 1940 was less than 20 acres. The frame structures were
built in about 1900 since the original buildings were in the direct
line of fire between the opposing armies and were destroyed. It is said
that the people danced on the fourth floor when the weeks labours were
Ruins of the original brick mill, destroyed during this battle.
cast of characters is as follows:
Seaton Grantland Tinsley (Frances 'Fanny' William Gaines) my great
the story. Age 25 at the time of the story.
Father would be Dr. William Fleming Gaines, age 58.
Mother would be Mrs. Gaines (Jane Elizabeth Spindle), Ms Jane, age 49
White House referred to - click link to see story.
Hattie was Harriet Bryan Tinsley, my grandmother, born 2-18-1861,
therefore 1 year and almost
3 months old at the time of the story.
Sister Sallie, Sallie Garlick Gaines, 30 at the time. Sallie married a
William Gaines who was a distant ? cousin, I hope.
Mrs. T. ???
Mr. Tinsley, Seaton Grantland Tinsley.
Mr. Tinsley's brother could be Alexander Tinsley, 30 at the time or
James Garland Tinsley,
18 at the time.
Seatons parents were both dead
Jennie, referred to at the end would be Jane 'Jennie' Gaines Tinsley
Curtis, family physician about 2 miles away.
the dining room servant.
Uncle Anthony, old man who worked the flower garden.
Mary, the cook, also I believe referred to as the "little Negro nurse
General Low, ascended in balloon.(Probably Professor Lowe, Chief of
Aeronauts for the Army of the Potomac)
General Porter, Quarter master
MRS. S. G. TINSLEY'S WAR EXPERIENCE
Until May 1862, when the Confederates evacuated the
Peninsula, I was at home. Mr. Tinsley had gone down to the Peninsula
and was in the Quartermaster's Department. When the Confederates
evacuated the Peninsula, he came up and took a position in the Treasury
Department of the Confederacy, where he remained the rest of the war.
We were at home-- Father, Mother and I. Brother William Gaines my
sister Sallie's husband was in the army, and Sister had gone to
Charlotte County. I couldn't leave Father and Mother, they were both
old, and I did not have any money to pay board anywhere else and did
not want to be a charity patient. When the Yankee army came up the
first of May, we did not know what to do or how we would be treated,
but Father would not leave home. He said he had no where else to go but
home and he was going to stay there.
When the Yankee army came up from the White House, we were in
a great state of excitement. The morning after they came up, the
officer for the day came to the house and put a guard of thirty men
around it for our protection. It was not safe for Father to ride
around. The officers were very considerate and very nice to us. The
schoolhouse was taken for the surgeons and they staid there. The
carriage house was taken for the Yankee hospital, and the sick and
wounded were carried there.
During this time the only way we had any news from outside
world was by the officers of the day coming and bringing Father the
papers. We were in their hands for six weeks, and they were always kind
and polite to us. They never came into the house. The guard had orders
never to let a private enter the yard. There were three gates to the
yard, and a guard was stationed at each to keep the privates out. If
they wanted anything they came to the gate for it.
The officers told Mother if she would let them have milk for
their sick and let the soldiers buy all she had to spare that they
would protect the cows. Hattie was a baby and she was, of course
dependent on the milk. Every morning the cows were driven into the yard
and a guard was stationed at each gate to see that they were not turned
out or did not get out. When the cows were milked the soldiers would
come with their canteens to the gate and get the guards to take them in
and get them filled with milk. They paid Mother twenty-five cents
(silver) a quart for it. The Yankees also asked Mother to let the sick
have milk, and so she sent the sick milk every morning, or rather the
guards took it to them. She also gave the surgeons milk.
There were three outside doors to our house, and there was a
guard at each. There was one guard who staid ten days or two weeks at
the back door, and he said he did not like to stay in the woods. Mother
gave him his meals three times a day.
We had a very good garden, and a guard was stationed around
that to see that the vegetables were not stolen or destroyed. Mother
gave the garden to our dining room servant, Toler, who had always
worked it, and told him he could have all the vegetables except what we
wanted for ourselves. Toler had a little handcart and would go into the
garden every morning, gather the vegetables and take them to camp and
sell them. He had the money for them. Mother thought the garden would
be better protected if she gave it to Toler.
We had beautiful roses, and the Yankees were perfectly
devoted to flowers and when we would throw the old, withered ones out
into the yard the guards that were around the house would go and pick
them up and carry them to camp. One morning General Carney (Mrs. T.
says it doesn't make any difference how I spell his name because he was
shot in the back) rode up and asked Mother if she would sell him some
of the roses. Mother told him "No" she wouldn't sell them to him but
that he could go into the garden and cut as many as he wanted. He said
he wanted to send them home to his wife. After that Mother told Uncle
Anthony, the old man who worked the flower garden, that he might have
the flowers if he chose to take them to camp and sell them and he could
have the money for them. So every morning Uncle Anthony would get a
great big waiter and go into the garden and cut all the flowers and
make them into bouquets--you may know what they looked like--and carry
them to camp and sell them to the soldiers, and they would be perfectly
delighted to get them.
One night the report went out that Father was a spy and was
putting lights in the windows to signal our soldiers. Our men
(sharpshooters) were on the opposite hill across the Chickahominy River
in Henrico County. We were forbidden to have any lights in the back of
the house that overlooked the hills on the other side of the river. One
night Hattie was sick and I was sleeping in the back of the house in a
room which overlooked the hills, and I lit a candle to see how to give
her some medicine. The guards staid in the back porch at night (all
that were not on duty at the gates), and one of them came and knocked
on the window and told me that I must put the light out because he had
orders that no lights were to be allowed in the back of the house. I
told him that the baby was sick and that I only had the light to see
how to give her some medicine, and that I would put it in the closet.
He said that would be all right. The guards never made any noise in the
Every day the Yankees sent up a balloon (called the
"Intrepid") in front of our house to try to see what was going on in
Richmond. [picture of the Intrepid,
large file may load slowly.] General Low was the man who ascended in
the balloon, and he told many wonderful things that he saw going on in
Richmond--such as people going to Church, the evacuation of Richmond
(in 1862), wagon trains crossing Mayo's Bridge, etc.
There was an old lady, Mrs. Woody, who lived three or four
miles from us, and a balloon was sent up from her house too. When they
were telling her what they had see she replied, "Yes, Moses also viewed
the promised land, but he never entered". That night the church which
she attended and which was on a corner of her place was burned by the
Then the report got out that Mr. Tinsley and his brother were
at home, and a body of men was sent to search the house. Mother went up
stairs with them. They looked like they were scared to death when they
got up there. They poked their heads into the doors like they thought
somebody was going to shoot them. Mother told them that was not the way
to search a house, that they must come in and search because she had
closets and they must come in and look good, that they would not know
who she had hid in the closets. But they would just open the doors and
peep in and she would say "You haven't looked into that closet good".
But they said they were satisfied. After they got through on the second
floor she told them to "Come on" that was not all the house she had a
garret. They went up into the garret and just opened the door and
looked in. Mother told them that was not the way to search a house that
she had cutties up there and they were fine places to hide in, and that
they must look into the cutties, but they again said that they were
satisfied and Mother said that she was not. Mother thought the guards
thought that she was going to entrap them, or that something was going
to happen to them.
One day I saw our men on the other hill, and I took Hattie
and went down into the garden with her, thinking that perhaps Mr.
Tinsley might be over there-he very often rode over there in the
evening--and that he could see that we were at home. The guard was at
the garden gate and I told him what I was going to do and that I was
not going to run away, and that he could watch me if he chose. He said
he was not afraid of my running away, and when I came back I told him I
had not seen anybody over there that evening.
General Porter was Quartermaster in the Yankee Army. He was
very kind to Father and used to come and bring him the papers every
morning. The officer in charge of the guard took his meals with us
every day. Mother used to ask him to come every day.
When sister left Fairfield she left all of her furniture
there. She went up to Charlotte during the war. Gen. Porter came down
one day and reported to Father that the furniture was being taken out
of the house and destroyed, and said that he couldn't prevent it and he
wanted to know if he (Father) could not have it brought down home.
Father told him that he had no control over the Negroes over there but
that he would try to have it moved. He got a boy to go up after it in
an ox cart. The boy brought one load and that was all he brought.
One day General Porter told us that they were planting siege
guns around the overseer's house and he did not think it was safe for
us to remain there any longer, that they expected to make an attack
there. They had been there then six weeks, and Father asked him where
we were to go and told him that we had staid there to protect the
property. General Porter told us to go to Dr. Curtis's (our family
physician's), which was about two miles away, and that we would be out
of the line of battle. We went over there, and when we got there we
found Dr. Curtis very ill, but the Yankees had been very good to him
and had had him attended to. He was entirely alone.
Every morning Toler would come over and bring us vegetables
from the garden, as Dr. Curtis did not have any. We had been there two
days when Father was arrested and taken to General Porter's
headquarters. Mother went with him, and I was left at Dr. Curtis's
entirely alone. Major Russell, of whom we had seen a great deal and who
had been very kind to us, rode up soon after Father left and asked
where he was. I told him that he had been arrested and that Mother had
gone with him over to General Porter's headquarters. He said, "Who is
here with you"? I told him "No one". He said, "You must not be left
here alone. I will stay with you until your Father comes back. I know
they have nothing against him." The Major would not come into the
house, but rode around the yard. While he was there the "Buck Tails"
(Pennsylvania Infantry" and perhaps the roughest regiment in the army)
came by and threw an inkstand on the porch and said "Remember the Buck
Tails." Father returned in about an hour and then Major Russell left.
That night Mary, the cook, came up stairs and said "Miss
Jane, did you know that Jackson's men was up here at Mechanicsville?"
Mother said, "Go away, Mary, you are a triplet, and you
haven't your share of sense."
We had been hearing the musketry all day, but did not know
there was any fighting going on at Mechanicsville. But the morning,
before sunrise, a Yankee officer rode up to the door and told us that
we would have to get out as soon as possible, that the Union army was
falling back and that they were going to make a stand there and had
already planted siege guns around the house. He told us to go to the
White House, so we got up, and with Dr. Curtis still as ill as he could
possibly be (we did not think he would live an hour.) and started. We
had no way of taking Dr. Curtis except in his buggy. Father got that
and put him in it and left Mother and me to walk through the woods,
with Hattie and the little Negro nurse girl, to the mill. This mill was
about a mile from Dr. Curtis's.
When we started, I had on slippers and carried a satchel with
Hattie's clothes in it. I also had a box with all my jewelry in it, but
in the excitement of getting off Mother set the box down and left it at
Dr. Curtis's. I also had a trunk there with my wedding presents in it
and my clothes, and they were all taken. When we started out Mother
thought that Dr. Curtis ought to have something to eat, so she took a
live chicken (I don't know why in the world she didn't kill it) in her
hand, to prepare him some soup when we should reach a short abiding
At the gate Father met Toler coming with the vegetables and
told him to go back and get the carriage and meet Mother and me at the
mill. Toler got the carriage and started to the mill, but the Yankees
wanted to take it from him. He told them that Miss Jane and Miss Fannie
was walking and they could not have the carriage. Then Father went to
the officer in command and asked him to let the driver go on with the
carriage as his wife and daughter and her baby were walking. He was
told that as soon as they got to the mill they would have to give the
Last updated 8/18/2013
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