Major Green Cumby and the Federals

Major Green Cumby and the Federals
Transcribed and submitted by Vicki Burress Roach.

(Taken from the Daily Corinthian. Written by Mrs. Don Watkins in 1954.)

Not all Confederate soldiers, were young men, Major Green Cumby, who lived at Farmington, left Corinth with a volunteer company, when he was 53 years old.

Mr. Cumby wanted to do his part, and he did by plying his trade, as a saddle maker with the volunteers, which his great grandchildren living in Corinth today believe was the cavalry company organized by Col.W. M. Inge.

The rigors of camp life, plus his age and illness forced Mr. Cumby to return after a year in service to his home at Farmington, a town older than the railroad settlement of Corinth. And Mr. Cumby was with his family when the Federals marched into Corinth from Shiloh by way of Farmington and took over their home as a hospital.
Farmington Hospital

From information given by the great grandchildren of Major Cumby, and reading an account of a hospital established at Farmington in a recent book, "Cyclone in Calico," written by Nina Brown Baker, this writer believes the hospital the Federals established at the Major Cumby homeplace at Farmington is the same hospital mentioned in the best seller.

The book is a recorded account of the life of a Union army nurse, Mrs. Mary Ann Bickerdyke. She was, according to a clipping pasted in the front of the book, "a vital, courageous salty, come-hell-or-high-water woman who worked tirelessly for the common soldiers during the war, and a morale-builder long before that term came to be a commonplace in army parlance."

Mr. Cumby's home was one of the larger homes of early Farmington. It was a two story structure on a ridge in a grove of trees and was built in the style of the day. Mr. Cumby owned many acres of land, and had hundreds of slaves. He also operated a leather tanning shop near his home. In his young days he drove a stage coach from Athens, Alabama to Brown's Ferry in Alabama, where he met and married Elizabeth Tillman of Athens while she was a student at the Athens Female College.

Mr. Cumby and his young bride came to Tishomingo County like many others when they heard about the opportunities in the "Empire County" and they settled near Farmington, where they both lived and died.
The Federals

When the Federals took over the Cumby homeplace they considered the Negro slaves as their contraband, took the strongest and let the others go. Two of the slaves, a mother and daughter, chose to remain with the Cumbys, and these two left secretly with the family when the Federals took over the place and ordered the family to leave. These two Negroes stayed with their master, his wife and her mother until each died. The slave daughter, now nearly 100 years old, is still living and from last account the Cumby great grandchildren had of her she is in St. Louis at the home of her daughter.

Now back to the Union army nurse and the book.
Gen. Grant gave her (Mrs. Bickerdyke) 40 army wagons to haul hospital equipment over the Corduroy Road to Farmington. She took along half a dozen of the best washermen among the contrabands. (She was being moved from the Savannah hospital after the Battle of Shiloh.)

"The Farmington hospital, when the wagon train reached it, proved to be a group of tents pitched on a ridge, sheltering nearly 1,400 men." (From information furnished by Mr. Cumby's great grandchildren and inquiries made by this writer, these tents were pitched on the land surrounding Major Cumby's home, and the lower floor of the home was used by the army doctors to perform operations and the upper rooms were for sick officers.)

These patients, according to the book, "were suffering from cases of typhoid, malaria and old wounds that would not heal." Mrs. Bickerdyke's Stove.

"Mrs. Bickerdyke arrived at Farmington on July 9, 1862. She had pestered Gen. Grant while at Savannah for a cook stove, and two weeks after she arrived at Farmington a huge sanitary shipment came by rail to Corinth. Among other badly needed supplies there was a wood range, a giant of a stove. It had been specially manufactured for a new Chicago hotel, now unfinished because of the war. It was a shiny black with nickel trim, it had an enormous cooking surface, a gigantic oven, and a storage tank for heating water. Mrs. Bickerdyke had never seen a stove so big."

And on page 123: "Late in August, word came that the Confederate General Price was advancing in an attempt to retake Corinth. He was reported to be within five miles of Farmington, a rest depot that could not be defended. Orders were given to evacuate the camp, including the hospital, to Corinth. Overnight the patients were loaded into wagons and hauled to Corinth. The need of haste was so great that the officers ordered "non essential" hospital supplies left behind. Mother Bickerdyke would not have that. (And through trickery, described in this paragraph, she managed to get the stove to the Corinth hospital.) This hospital must have been at Corona College, as this is the description given of the new hospital at Corinth in the book:

"The charming columned building had been a young ladies' seminary, exclusive and fairly expensive. It had wide airy dormitories, spacious parlors and plenty of room to move around."

The Corinth Shop
Major Cumby, like others in Corinth no matter what their business, had to "work" for the Federals after they took possession of the town. Mr. Cumby's saddle and harness shop in town was a busy place. Many of the soldiers, officers and, perhaps, some of the Generals visited his shop for repairs to their gear and to buy new gear. This shop, according to his relatives, was located on the site where the Alcorn Wholesale Co. has its business today.

The saddle hammer Major Cumby used in his shop is at the home of Mrs. Bertha McNeely, one of his great granddaughters. She also has the snuff box her great grandmother Cumby used. And Morgan Taylor, a great grandson who lives on the old Cumby homeplace at Farmington, has the "sticking horse" Major Cumby used to tan leather. He also has Major Cumby's old muzzle loading shotgun. He kept warm in the coldest weather by filling his pockets with hot baked sweet potatoes, which his children clamored for after a hunting trip.

Major Cumby died in 1898 at the age of 89 and a most devout christian.
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