Baptists and the American Civil War: June 28, 1861

Lorenza EzellLandrum C. Ezell (born May 16, 1843) of Spartanburg, South Carolina, enlists in the Cowpens Guards, 9th S.C. Regiment. Ezell is a Baptist preacher, and in the coming months and years he rises to the rank of sergeant, experiences minor war wounds, and fights in the battles of Williamsburg, Seven Pines, Gaines’ Mill, Frazer’s Farm, Wills Valley, Wilderness, and Spottsylvania, among others. He survives the war, and “heard General Lee’s address to the soldiers, not far from the apple tree near where my wagons were packed.”

Yet there’s more to Ezell’s story than the fighting.

Landrum is the owner of numerous slaves, including Levi Ezell, who has a son, Lorenza (pictured). In his early years, Lorenza is sold to another white family, but keeps the Ezell name. Lorenza recounts the story of the Ezell family and the war years, from a slave’s perspective:

“Us plantation was jes’ east from Pacolet Station on Thicketty Creek, in Spartanburg County, in South Carolina. Dat near Little and Big Pacolet Rivers on de route to Limestone Springs, and it jes’ a ordinary plantation with de main crops cotton and wheat.

I ‘long to de Lipscombs and my mama, Maria Ezell, she ‘long to ’em, too. Old Ned Lipscomb was ‘mongst de oldest citizens of dat county. I’s born dere on July 29th, in 1850 and I be 87 year old dis year. Levi Ezell, he my daddy, and he ‘long to Landrum Ezell, a Baptist preacher. Dat young massa and de old massa, John Ezell, was de first Baptist preacher I ever heered of. He have three sons, Landrum and Judson and Bryson. Bryson have gif’ for business and was right smart of a orator.

Dey’s fourteen niggers on de Lipscomb place. Dey’s seven of us chillen, my mamma, three uncle and three aunt and one man what wasn’t no kin to us. I was oldest of de chillen, and dey called Sallie and Carrie and Alice and Jabus and Coy and LaFate and Rufus and Nelson.

Old Ned Lipscomb was one de best massa in de whole county. You know dem old patterrollers, dey call us ‘Old Ned’s free niggers,’ and sho’ hate us. Dey cruel to us, ’cause dey think us have too good a massa. One time dey cotch my uncle and beat him most to death.

Us go to work at daylight, but us wasn’t ‘bused. Other massas used to blow de horn or ring de bell, but massa, he never use de horn or de whip. All de man folks was ‘lowed raise a garden patch with tobaccy or cotton for to sell in de market. Wasn’t many massas what ‘lowed dere niggers have patches and some didn’t even feed ’em enough. Dat’s why dey have to git out and hustle at night to git food for dem to eat.

De old massa, he ‘sisted us go to church. De Baptist church have a shed built behind de pulpit for cullud folks, with de dirt floor and split log seat for de women folks, but most de men folks stands or kneels on de floor. Dey used to call dat de coop. De white preacher back to us, but iffen he want to he turn ’round and talk to us awhile. Us mess up songs, ’cause us couldn’t read or write. I ‘member dis one:

De rough, rocky road what Moses done travel,
I’s bound to carry my soul to de Lawd;
It’s a mighty rocky road but I mos’ done travel,
And I’s bound to carry my soul to de Lawd.’

Us sing ‘Sweet Chariot,’ but us didn’t sing it like dese days. Us sing:

Swing low, sweet chariot,
Freely let me into rest,
I don’t want to stay here no longer;
Swing low, sweet chariot,
When Gabriel make he las’ alarm
I wants to be rollin’ in Jesus arm,
Cause I don’t want to stay here no longer.’

Us sing ‘nother song what de Yankees take dat tune and make a hymm out of it. Sherman army sung it, too. We have it like dis:

Our bodies bound to morter and decay,
Our bodies bound to morter and decay,
Our bodies bound to morter and decay,
But us souls go marchin’ home.’

Befo’ de war I jes’ big ‘nough to drap corn and tote water. When de little white chillen go to school ’bout half mile, I wait till noon and run all de way up to de school to run base when dey play at noon. Dey sev’ral young Lipscombs, dere Smith and Bill and John and Nathan, and de oldest son, Elias.

In dem days cullud people jes’ like mules and hosses. Dey didn’t have no last name. My mamma call me after my daddy’s massa, Ezell. Mamma was de good woman and I ‘member her more dan once rockin’ de little cradle and singin’ to de baby. Dis what she sing:

Milk in de dairy nine days old,
Sing-song Kitty, can’t you ki-me-o?
Frogs and skeeters gittin’ mighty bol!
Sing-song, Kitty, can’t you ki-me-o?


Keemo, kimo, darro, wharro,
With me hi, me ho;
In come Sally singin’
Sometime penny winkle,
Lingtum nip cat,
Sing-song, Kitty, can’t you ki-me-o?

Dere a frog live in a pool,
Sing-song, Kitty, can’t you ki-me-o?
Sure he was de bigges’ fool,
Sing-song Kitty, can’t you ki-me-o?

For he could dance and he could sing
Sing-song, Kitty, can’t you ki-me-o?
And make de woods aroun’ him ring
Sing-song, Kitty, can’t you ki-me-o?’

Old massa didn’t hold with de way some mean massas treat dey niggers. Dere a place on our plantation what us call ‘De old meadow.’ It was common for runaway niggers to have place ‘long de way to hide and res’ when dey run off from mean massa. Massa used to give ’em somethin’ to eat when dey hide dere. I saw dat place operated, though it wasn’t knowed by dat den, but long time after I finds out dey call it part of de ‘Underground railroad.’ Dey was stops like dat all de way up to de north.

We have went down to Columbia when I ’bout 11 year old and dat where de first gun fired. Us rush back home, but I could say I heered de first guns of de war shot, at Fort Sumter.

When Gen’ral Sherman come ‘cross de Savannah River in South Carolina, some of he sojers come right ‘cross us plantation. All de neighbors have brung dey cotton and stack it in de thicket on de Lipscomb place. Sherman men find it and sot it on fire. Dat cotton stack was big as a little courthouse and it took two months’ burnin’.

My old massa run off and stay in de woods a whole week when Sherman men come through. He didn’t need to worry, ’cause us took care of everythin’. Dey a funny song us make up ’bout him runnin’ off in de woods. I know it was make up, ’cause my uncle have a hand in it. It went like dis:

White folks, have you seed old massa
Up de road, with he mustache on?
He pick up he hat and he leave real sudden
And I ‘lieve he’s up and gone.


Old massa run away
And us darkies stay at home.
It mus’ be now dat Kingdom’s comin’
And de year of Jubilee.

He look up de river and he seed dat smoke
Where de Lincoln gunboats lay.
He big ’nuff and he old ’nuff and he orter know better,
But he gone and run away.

Now dat overseer want to give trouble
And trot us ’round a spell,
But we lock him up in de smokehouse cellar,
With de key done throwed in de well.’

Right after dat I start to be boy what run mail from camp to camp for de sojers. One time I capture by a bunch of deserters what was hidin’ in de woods ‘long Pacolet River. Dey didn’t hurt me, though, but dey mos’ scare me to death. Dey parole me and turn me loose.

All four my young massas go to de war, all but Elias. He too old. Smith, he kilt at Manassas Junction. Nathan he git he finger shot at de first round at Fort Sumter. But when Billy was wounded at Howard Gap in North Carolina and dey brung him home with he jaw split open, I so mad I could have kilt all de Yankees. I say I be happy iffen I could kill me jes’ one Yankee. I hated dem ’cause dey hurt my white people. Billy was disfigure awful when he jaw split and he teeth all shine through he cheek.

After war was over, old massa call us up and told us we free but he ‘vise not leave de place till de crop was through. Us all stay. Den us select us homes and move to it. Us folks move to Sam Littlejohn’s, north of Thickettty Creek, where us stay two year. Den us move back to Billy Lipscomb, de young massa, and stay dere two more year.”

Sources: Landrum’s military record (link); Lorenza Ezell’s story and photo (link)