Why prepare a manuscript for a family that is defunct, whose last living member died over ninety years ago? Only a genealogist (be it amateur) can know the thrill of bringing a family's history out of the mists of obscurity. As the story of this remarkable family has poured forth in a virtual treasure trove of data, their story had to be told. Not that the family documented their history, no manuscript is known, other than three paragraphs in a biographical history of Northwest Louisiana (1890). But several distant relatives of the time told of the Windes vicariously, and when I began to really take a good look at old records, public and private, their story magically appeared. Several elderly folks had stories still locked within their memory banks to share. Even the two books of poetry written by Robert Junior give insight into his take on the events that shaped their lives. O, it has been a wonderful journey in finding these dear kin again! But I'm getting ahead of my narrative, let me begin at the beginning.
Traveling back to the mid seventeen hundreds, we find the name of one Samuel Windes, a young man who had apparently fought in the Cherokee Wars. He was granted land in the region called 'the Welsh Tract', along the Pee Dee River in South Carolina, where a little village named Society Hill developed. Samuel would stay in that region for the duration of his long life, which ended in 1811. He was married three times, to Lydia Edwards, Sarah Lang, and Mary (last name unknown). He had children by his first and third wives - thus a vast difference in ages occurred between the siblings. His children by Lydia were Enoch, Mary, Sarah, and Susannah. Those born to Mary (and mostly underage when Samuel died), were Samuel Jr., Margaret, Rebecca and Thomas.
I won't tell the story of these children here; it belongs to another manuscript. I'll note in passing though, that several of them moved to the southwest, along the famed Federal Road that opened in 1811, even as countless of their close neighbors and kin did. Good land was available in Mississippi and Louisiana, if you could get beyond Alabama, where the Creek Nation resided. Indeed, travel passes were required to move through their ancient ancestral lands. We will speak of possible family reunions to the southwest later.
It is necessary however, that we do follow the life of Enoch Windes, as there can be no story otherwise. Enoch was born about 1765, and married Sarah Dumville (born about 1770), around 1789. She was the daughter of Robert Dumville and his wife, Mary McGill. Enoch learned the carpenter trade. Though the Windes and Dumvilles lived in comfortable circumstances in Society Hill, the need for moving west was pulsing through the restless young of all of the settled areas. Enoch and Sarah caught the fever, and made plans to emigrate. They, with all of Sarah's birth family, and Enoch's sister Susan, traveled to new lands in Tennessee around 1795 or so. They would then live in Grainger County for approximately ten years. During their sojourn there, several children were born to Enoch and Sarah, but for purposes of this story, the important one was Robert Dumville Windes, later known as Senior, who was born on January 19th 1799. Robert may have also been a twin, since a brother, Samuel P., is also given that same birth year. There is a legend that states that Enoch built the first house in Knoxville, TN. It is far more likely that he actually built the 1st house in the county seat of Grainger Co. His in-laws had purchased much land in that area. Sarah's two sisters married while the family lived in Tennessee. Mary Dumville married Eleazer Clay, and Ellender Dumville married William Sims. Enoch Windes was bondsman for that marriage on June 7th, 1803.
In approximately 1805, the senior Dumvilles and the Windes moved on to Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. The Dumville son-in-laws went with them. However, Richard A. Dumville Sr. (the only son), turned in the direction of Kentucky instead. Later, that family changed their name to Dunville.
Missouri at the time was still a possession of France, the interior of which was raw and undeveloped. Places like Ste. Genevieve however, were already many decades old, originally established by French farmers along the rich river bottomlands of the Mississippi.
Enoch Windes is said to have become the proprietor of a small inn in Ste. Genevieve, when the family first arrived in town. The marriage connected families rapidly moved out from Ste. Genevieve though, and the Windes settled in the iron rich town of Potosi, where Enoch practiced his carpenter trade. They bought land there from Moses Austin, who would later be considered the 'Father of Texas.' Contact did remain among the various families however, and the Windes would witness wills and trade land around as time passed. We find occasional reference to them in various ledgers and lists of the time, but censuses were not taken, since Missouri wasn't yet a state. Several of their children grew up, married, and headed into western Missouri (another manuscript will tell their tale). However, three sons chose to move down river. Land was becoming available in Mississippi Territory as various Indian tribes left the area, and the soil was rich and fruitful. Much timber was also being cut out and shipped by boat to New Orleans.
The sons who chose to go south were Robert Dumville, Samuel P., and Enoch Junior. Robert went around 1820, Samuel by 1822, and then young Enoch Jr., who worked in getting out timber and was once saved by Samuel when he fell seriously ill. Apparently the exodus from eastern Missouri was too much for the senior Windes, and they eventually moved south to Hinds County, Ms., where Samuel P. lived with his wife and three sons. Though getting on in years, Enoch and Sarah had three unmarried daughters still living with them. As to the period they moved, Enoch signed a 'found stray' book in Missouri in 1825. They next appear in the 1830 census in Hinds County, Mississippi.
Now our story moves to the patriarch of our current manuscript, ROBERT DUMVILLE WINDES, SR.
Bayou Chicot is possibly the first 'Anglo' settlement in Louisiana. Built in the piney hills in the center of the state, it's reasonable to assume that the community really began around the year of 1800. The very first Baptist church built west of the Mississippi was established in Chicot by the legendary Baptist preacher, Joseph Willis, in 1812 (who was the pastor for the next 34 years). The Methodist Church is believed to have started even earlier, around 1806/1807. They were the only early churches erected in Chicot.
Built above the swamps of the flatlands, Chicot had become a center of some learning and culture by the year that the young man. Robert Dumville Windes, appeared around 1820. It is said that Robert came to Chicot to teach school and continue his study of medicine (it's known that he had some apprentice training back in Missouri). There is a possibility however, that Robert also came to visit family, that kin from distant South Carolina had made their way this far west. The incomplete records of the time tell us little.
Whatever the reason why Robert came to Chicot, he was soon popular. He took an interest in a young daughter of the prominent Ferguson family and friendship soon turned to love. Her name was Eugenia Peake Ferguson. She was the daughter of Daniel Ferguson and his wife, Esther Peake. They were from the same general region of South Carolina that Enoch and Sarah Windes were from (was there a family connection?). Daniel and Esther married in 1791 and had come by covered wagon (with their first five children), to Bayou Chicot in 1808. Daniel had a large plantation with slaves. The Fergusons built one of the finest homes in the small settlement. Their daughters married into well-established local families. The Ferguson cemetery began on their property, along the old public road that ran in front of their home. Esther Peake's stone is the oldest one that stands there today. The private family cemetery would evolve into a public cemetery, as was so often the case in small family connected communities.
The marriage of Robert and Eugenia took place in 1827. The marriage certification showed that Robert was 27, Eugenia 18. Most importantly, the certificate states that Robert was the son of Enoch Windes and Sarah Dumville. That single discovery helped immeasurably in tying the Windes families here in America together. Robert and Eugenia were married by Baptist Preacher, Isham Nettles, on Jan. 17th, in what was then St. Landry Parish. Nettles often helped Joseph Willis, the pioneer Baptist preacher, in establishing churches in the area.
Only two children are known to have come to bless their home. They were: Laura D. (probably Dumville), born 1828, but died at the age of three in 1831. Robert Dumville Jr. born 1830, died 1912, never married (much will be said of him in this manuscript, in which he will be referred to as Robert Junior, young Robert or Bob).
Ms. Mabel Thompson, village historian, says that the Windes had a fine two-story home in the section of Chicot called Cox's Mill, and that James Ferguson, an uncle of Eugenia's, was responsible for building it. Absolutely nothing remains at the site today, other than a clearing and some shrubs and foliage that reveal to old timers that a homestead once stood there. It was on the road that now goes to Chicot State Park. The actual location (according to Ms. Mabel), was just at the base of the only long hill where you can't see an uncoming car, and just to the left of the roadway (look for iris). The Windes would live there for about 10 years, till the doctor decided to develop some extensive land holdings at Holmesville, about twenty-five miles away.
It is probably to the house at Cox's Mill that Robert's sister, Mary Dumville Windes moved, just after the death of their parents, Enoch and Sarah. They appeared in the 1830 Hinds County census, but were gone by 1840. Enoch is said to have died in 1835, and Sarah shortly after. Mary Dumville may have been the baby of the family. Her two sisters, Lydia and Susan Windes, remained in Hinds County, having found husbands. Lydia married John Futch, and Susan married Robert Wells. Mary Dumville Windes died unmarried in 1839, and was buried in the Ferguson family cemetery. She was 27. It is also about this time that Eugenia' s sister Atlanta first came to live with the family, after the death of her husband, Silas Thomas. Possibly the land at Holmesville belonged to her and she asked Doctor Windes to develop it for her. She would remain with the family for many decades, and after the death of Eugenia in 1859, became the hostess of the doctor's household. A description of Atlanta has been left to us:
"Aunt Atlanta had a withered left hand, from falling into a boiling syrup kettle, but it never detracted from her small dainty feminine appearance."
Atlanta is said to have been the one who encouraged young Robert to dream his dreams and follow a less structured approach to life, chiefly in pursuit of good reading, poetry, languages, an appreciation of nature, etc. One wonders if he was spoiled rotten. Dudley Tatman says that Bob was raised in love and opulence. A manservant (Rice) was sent to serve him when he joined the Confederacy (a practice not uncommon for the time). Ms. Mabel Thompson says of Robert Jr.,
"It was said he would stay out in the cane brakes all day and translate Greek and Latin but he could not recognize his own mule when he saw it."
It was a major undertaking to build the family's second home on Watermelon bayou at Holmesville. The old records in Chicot speak of much timber purchased, along with many of the other necessities needed to raise a substantial house. Watermelon Bayou had always been considered a good place to water your horse. Several well-known local planters would construct large homes along the main road in Holmesville, some of which had family connections to Eugenia and Atlanta. The nearby Milburn family was kin and was often entertained at the Windes home, after it was completed around 1840. There was a negative to building near the old bayou however. Teresa Milburn in her Civil War diary, SCRIBBLING, speaks of being outside with cousin Atlanta picking berries there and dealing with great hordes of red bugs and mosquitoes.
A Civil War officer later recorded what the region was like to his wife: "Ascending a slight elevation we suddenly emerged in one of the most beautiful prairies imaginable. High table land, gentle undulating, watered by exquisite lakes, occasional groves, the landscape dotted with tasteful houses, gardens and shrubberies. This prairie (is) called Avoyelles."
Even after the large manor was completed at Watermelon Bayou, it was though prudent to send young Robert back to school at Chicot. The educational facilities were probably better, and the climate was healthier. Bob therefore boarded with the family of his aunt and uncle, Ransom P. Ferguson. In an old ledger of Ransom's, is found the following notation for June, 1846:
"Dr. R.D. Windes for boarding your son one year $75.00."
Miss Mabel records a "cat story" that happened at the Ransom Ferguson house in Chicot one evening:
"A movement at the double doors caused Mr. Ferguson to look in that direction. There were two pairs of eyes shining from the firelight. His nephew was sitting near the fire, and Ferguson yelled at him to get some fire and run those dogs out. The boy picked up one of the blazing rails and quickly struck at the animals in the door. The animals turned back from the fire, and the boy quickly closed and barred the doors, for he realized that these were not dogs at all, but cougars."
Young Robert joined the Baptist church at Chicot in his youth also. Perhaps boarding there gave him a chance to attend services and mix with the other young members. There is a story that the pastor once delayed Sunday services, to go and gather up a number of boys who skipped church to go swimming, including Bob. When he attended college, he seems to have taken a much broader view of life. In a poem entitled "EPISTLE TO U.S. SENATOR FROM MISSOURI," he mentions his college years and states for two years "I was furiously mad as a Bacchant. Either crazy with drink or as crazy for drink as for Jesus a black aunt," and then reflected further on a trip to "old Bermudez, fresh from Confession and pure as the Immaculate Virgin." His own harrowing Civil War experiences also seem to have changed his opinion on organized religion. In his poem entitled, "PORT HUDSON IN 1862," he speaks disdainfully of country churches (and their preachers), with the following observation:
Whilst thou all this with a calm eye
The subject of the day's discourse:
As long as people go on sinning,
And having ended here he kneels
The last poem published in his 1911 book, ATHENAIOS, A SATYRIC DRAMA AND OTHER VERSE, does reiterate Bob's belief in man's immortal soul however. In the poem "Called Back" he speaks of the finality of death but concludes, "but the trees broke into purple and silver laughter, which caught me and wafted me (back) from under Hades' rafter."
In the early 1850's, there occurred an event that has placed the name of Dr. Windes in perpetuity. It is the story of one Solomon Northup, a free man of color, who was kidnapped and sold in slavery along the Red River of central Louisiana. After Solomon managed to get a letter out to his family and was discovered by a legal representative and removed from Holmesville, he returned to his former home in New England and wrote a book, entitled, TWELVE YEARS IN SLAVERY. It became a national best seller, in a time when UNCLE TOM'S CABIN was awakening the consciousness of Americans. Northup mentioned Dr. Windes. Indeed, the eventual identifying of Doctor Windes (Solomon had spelled it phonetically), was one of the proofs that investigators needed to verify that Northup's sad sojourn in Louisiana had happened just as he said it had.
About 1853, Solomon was working for his most difficult planter, Edwin Epps of Holmesville. Northup became very sick and was thought to be near death. Epps, not wanting to lose his investment, took him to the plantation of Dr. Windes to be treated. "(he) announced to Epps that it was the effect of the climate, and there was a probability of his losing me. He directed me to eat no meat, and to partake of no more food than was absolutely necessary to sustain life. Several weeks elapsed, during which time, under the scanty diet to which I was subjected, I recovered. "
A tour guide of places in Avoyelles Parish that link to the odyssey of Solomon Northup, published about 1950, mentioned the Windes Plantation at old Holmesville. Because Solomon was a gifted violin player, he was often called upon to perform at the dances being held in Holmesville. Thus Bob was acquainted with him as well. There are descendants of Solomon Northup who live in California today.
Young Robert was sent off to college when the time came. The husband of a Ferguson cousin has described his education: "Young Windes was a typical Southerner, a graduate of a Kentucky College, thoroughly educated, especially in the classics, and (he) also took a post-graduate course in law." Robert had first entered the junior class at Centre College in Danville, Ky., but eventually left there to study law under Judge T.B. Monroe of Frankfort, Ky. He received his diploma from the law school of Transylvania University at Lexington, Ky. (Jefferson Davis, future President of the Confederacy, had graduated there thirty years there earlier). After being admitted to the bar in his own state, Robert moved to bustling New Orleans and joined a law firm in 1855 to begin his practice. However, at the death of his mother in 1859, he returned to the plantation at Holmesville forever, probably called back by the needs of his aging father, Dr. Windes. The operation of the plantation was very important to the whole family, and "Aunt'Lanta" was probably overjoyed. She and Robert Jr. would live under the same roof for 46 more years, till her death in 1906. Bob would live just six years longer.
The Civil War came to America beginning with the firing on Fort Sumter at Charleston, South Carolina. It was to ultimately destroy the way of life that Dr. Windes, and countless other owners of large farms and plantations, had known for generations. Gone forever was the southern 'slavery based' system of fanning. which had paid such rich dividends to the participants, their communities and states. Just before the war, Dr. Windes had owned 43 slaves, his wife's kin, the Milburns, living just across his fields, owned 28.
Young Robert had his strong misgivings as to ultimate success of the Confederate cause from the start. In his epic poem entitled, "EPISTLE TO A U.S. SENATOR FROM MISSOURI," he reveals:
As clearly as Ilion's chieftain, alas, in my mind and my heart,
But as fools were determined to play it and life to me wanted an aim,
Let others in fool-smoke dote or in glorious moonshine bask,
Nathaniel Van Woert, in his diary concerning the "Siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana," identified the exact unit that young Robert served under during the war. He was a volunteer member of Captain Richard M. Boone's Battery of the Light Artillery, of the Confederate States Army. To pinpoint even further, he was assigned to Sergeant Griffin's gun squad and was a member of Mess Number One. Robert's body servant, Rice, cooked for that mess, and looked after the bodily comforts of "Massa Robert." In the 1880 census, a black man named Rice Coleman, was yet living on the Windes Plantation, with his wife and nephew.
Van Woert's diary is only one of three that have appeared in recent years to give us insight into the heart-rending events that would take place, both for Bob on the front lines, and with his father and aunt back at their plantation and in the community of Holmesville. Additional of Bob' s poems tie to Civil War related themes as well. Thus our family has a wonderful 'window of opportunity' to visualize the violent storm which had descended on their lives.
It was in the beginning of 1862, that young Robert enlisted in Boone's battery as a private (he would later be promoted to a sergeant). We begin with Bob stationed at Fort Hudson. His poem, "FORT HUDSON IN 1862," reveals what things were like before the full fury broke. The poem is addressed to a female cousin, and first gives great praise to the beautiful day and setting that he is in, indeed, "a paradise." He further states:
How sweet on this high knoll to rest
His vision then turns to the Mississippi River which runs below, and he addresses a subject oft explored by Bob, his admiration for the travels and explorations of his Spanish hero, DeSoto, who lies buried beneath the waters of the great river. He then presented his previous mentioned harangue on preachers whom never think of clothes or food, but immediately turns back to his cousin, and says,
But though, dear coz, will THINK of these,
And if we do not worship Him
The Civil War diary of Nathaniel Van Woert picks up the story as to when the war came to Private Windes. Van Woert arrives at Port Hudson in late January of 1863. He joins Griffith's Gun Squad and Mess, thanks to the courtesy of young Robert, who "was my wife' s cousin and only son of Doctor Windes, a planter and practicing physician living near Holmesville in Bayou Boeuf." The real fighting began on March 14th, when the federal fleet arrived in the vicinity of Port Hudson. They opened fire to get the range of the riverside batteries, and at eleven p.m. opened a furious bombardment while trying to pass up the river. Van Woert says of the event:
"The noise of the heavy guns and the shrieking shells was something terrifying, ear splitting and nerve rending My first impulse was to run away just as fast as my legs could carry me I saw more hell in the next sixty minutes than I had ever dreamed of in all my life two vessels succeeded in running by the river batteries." The Great Conflict had come to central Louisiana.
The famed Siege of Port Hudson would begin officially two months later on May 21st, and extend to July 9th, 1863. 30,000 Union troops surrounded 6,500 Confederates. Lasting some 48 days, it is the longer true siege in American military history. Confederate soldiers were reduced to eating mules, horses, and rats, and it was here that black soldiers in the United States Army first participated in an assault. It was the bloodiest battle for the Union during the Civil War, with 267 casualties per 1,000 troops. The fall of Port Hudson opened the river and hastened the fall of the Confederacy.
The diary of Nathanial Van Woert states that after the bombardment of March 14th, "for a time we were relieved of the near presence of the federal fleet and could indulge in speculations as to the next move in the game of war." There were no other entries till May 21st, when he wrote "they have disturbed us again."
"We were ordered out to the breastworks last night and our horses stood harnessed until dawn. The fleet opened fire on our works at about 3 a.m. and kept it up for an hour. At 9.30 a.m. there was cannonading on the land side or rear of Port Hudson." He wrote a description of the mortars being shelled into their area "(they) rise to a great height and display a beautiful curve in the sky as they come rushing and roaring toward the earth. Then if the fuse is accurately timed the great ball burst into fragments just before striking and the jagged pieces shriek infernally as they scatter in all directions. I will say that it is not pleasant to be in the vicinity just then." The siege had begun.
On May 23rd, he mentioned that "the mortar sloops shelled our works from 3:30 to 4:30 A.M dispelling all sleep at that ungodly hour. Boone's Battery went to the ordinance department with our six pounder smooth bore field pieces and got twelve pounder Howitzers with accompanying cassons in exchange." From that date on, his diary was written in nearly every day of the siege, describing death and destruction all around, and often mentioning friends wounded and killed.
Van Woert lamented "Let me remind that you that being besieged and cut off from all communication from the world and being shot at by day and being bombarded all night is no joking matter, besides the weather is getting warm and we have to remain in the trenches cut off from any breeze that may be stirring. We cannot stand erect without exposing the head and shoulders to the lynx-eyes sharp shooters."
On June 11th, he wrote, "Captain Dick Boone (the battery leader) was watching the effect of our fire from a somewhat exposed point on the battery platform (and) received a projectile through his thigh. It was a most distressing and depressing occurrence." Their Captain, Richard M. Boone, died four days later.
On June 29th, his diary states, "Our rations, never plentiful, are running short. We have been eating bread made of mustry corn and cow peal meal ground together in an old plantation gristmill and have some fermenting plantation molasses to go along with the bread. The combination can be imagined."
He then mentions that, "Our faithful Negroman, Rice, manages to catch a fish from the river occasionally and serves it up to our half famished gun crew. The cooks cannot approach the lines during daybreak. We have to breakfast very early, sup late, and dream at night of feasting. An eight inch shell from our friends over the way spoiled our breakfast one morning. Our gun squad was squatted down around a big mess pan enjoying a stewed catfish that Rice had caught and served up to us, when a shell dropped into a ditch only a few feet from us. The fuse was sizzling and spitting fIre like an infernal demon and was evidently bent on malicious mischief, if not worse. We instinctively fell over backward away from the pan of fish expecting that some or all of us might be killed or wounded. A deafening explosion followed throwing dirt and dust into the air and over us all as we lay there on our backs. Gathering ourselves up we were overjoyed to find that no one was hurt, but alas for our nice fish breakfast, it was teetotally spoiled. We had to go all that day without a morsel of food until Rice could make his after dark trip with our supper. He furthermore told us that he could no do any more fishing as the Yankees on the other side of the river shot at him and it was getting to be a mighty risky bizness anyhow."
On July 1st, Nathaniel relates, "we are beginning to suffer for food and water. It is dangerous to go for water in the daytime. Windes and I with a lot of canteens, went to a spring after dust, but (we) were fired on by sharpshooters. Their bullets zipped by dangerously close." He then wrote, "We also lost our gun sergeant, Griffith, who was mutilated by a heavy projectile just after dust."
On July 5th, "We have been subsisting on half rations of meal and peas, sugar and sour molasses. We have had no meat rations for a number of days. The boys (were) casting longing glances at some of the nice fat mules. The commissary men asked if they would partake of mule meat if it was served 'a la carte.' The hungry fellows answered yes, so we had it and partook of it and found that it filled the aching void."
Finally on July 8th, Van Woert wrote "that a truce and suspension of hostilities here was concluded this a.m, and Port Hudson has been surrender. The elements seem to resent it. Excessively hot, rain and heavy thunder. The great Mississippi River is now open to the enemy and their warships and gunboats "
Then on July 9th, "the ceremony of laying down our arms, etc. was gone through with and the 'boys in blue' marched in and took possession. The first thing they did was to issue rations to their half famished prisoners of war."
On July 13th, "the men having received their paroles in good shape, duly signed and delivered, left Port Hudson about 12.30 p.m. A large party of us was escorted out of the besieging lines by a detachment of federal cavalry some two or three miles and we then went our several ways homeward bound." The Commissioned officers were held longer for an exchange of prisoners.
What is amazing is that while Van Woert's account ends in mid July, that in August, Bob's 19 year old cousin, Teresa Milburn, began a diary entitled SCRIBBING, at her mother's plantation, which backed up to the Windes plantation. Teresa visited her Windes kin quite frequently, and thus the saga of young Robert (and events at Holmesville) continued through her journal.
Teresa Milburn had come home from school due to the onset of the Civil War. Her mother and Eugenia Windes (who was deceased at the time the diary was written) were first cousins. The diary continued for almost two years, till May of 1865. It describes General Bank's famed Red River Campaign, which passed close to Holmesville in March of 1864. She referred to the Yankees as "wretches," and watched in terror for their appearance on the Bayou. She further states:
"Oh! When will this unholy war cease? I am sick and tired of hearing of Yankees, War and Negroes."
Bob, in his own brief account of his Civil War experiences, stated that he rejoined his command after reaching home and served until the close of hostilities, being finally disbanded at Alexandria. You get the impression, upon reading Teresa's diary, that he would sometimes be home for brief periods, then would leave again when his unit was called out. Here are the most interesting of the Windes references of many found in Teresa's diary:
August 18th, 1863: We spent one evening at Dr. Windes. Cousin Bob was teasing us about thinking so much of brass buttons and stripes. I argued I did not think anymore of stripes and buttons that I did of the plain Confederate uniform, He said "of course all the young ladies would say that" He is quite a handsome cousin - small, dark curly hair and very intelligent.
October 16th, 1863: "Had a delightful visit yesterday, spent the day at Dr. Windes; always find Cousin Bob good company but he was more agreeable yesterday than ever before, conversing on many pleasant topics, and reading his favorite pieces by Moore. Cousin Atlanta, dear soul, was also cheerful and talkative. (I) returned home late in the evening, brought with me several large books that Cousin Bob wished me to read, and also got his photograph. Commenced reading Prescott's 'Ferdinand and lsabella' late last night"
October 26th, 1863: "Our army is falling back, soon we will be left to the mercy of our enemy! General Walker's division passed, they were passing all day. Came very near fainting as a poor soldier who had his skull fractured by his horse was brought in "
December 31st, 1863: "A very dear cousin (R.D.W.) left for camp a few days since. Poor fellow, he will nearly freeze tonight, for it is bitter cold and the wind is howling very hard. Another year has come and gone and still this unholy war is waged "
January 22nd, 1864: "Last Friday evening and until Sunday evening was spent with cousin Atlanta quite a pleasant time. Dr. Windes received a letter from Cousin Bob while I was there.
February 18th, 1864: "Embroidered a beautiful tobacco bag for Cousin Bob Windes. Carried it up yesterday but was sadly disappointed for he had left that morning, a few hours before we came."
March 16th, 1864: "Went up to Dr. Windes Monday evening, was stopped near Mr. Keller's by a soldier from the 2nd Infantry, who told us that the Yankees were in Evergreen. We did not believe it and went on. Heard then (at the Windes) that it was true."
March 18th, 1864: "The Yankees, in small forces, came I looked toward one of our Negro's chicken houses and saw them fighting - him and a Yankee Negro I screamed white soldiers ran into the yard. The Yankee Negro had wounded Oliver on the arm with a hoe. I never saw the like Ma and I sat up all night " and then the next morning: "we caught nearly all the chickens and turkeys last night and put them in baskets in the meal room and kegs in the dining room. I was never more annoyed by any little thing, than I was this morning about day light, by the crowing of the chickens in our dining room!"
March 25th, 1864: "A great many (Negroes) have gone, two from Uncle Morrison's, all from Mr. Keller's except six or seven, and all of Dr. Windes. None of ours have gone yet, but the one who left last Spring, slipped off and came home and says he's tired of following the Yankees. He is as polite as ever."
April 12th, 1864 "Heard today that they're been fighting between Pleasant Hill and Natchitoches for four days; that we had killed several thousand and made them retreat and have captured fifteen hundred Yankees and fifty pieces of artillery and a great deal more, 1 hope and pray it may be true." (this was the famed Civil War Battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, Louisiana).
May 8th, 1864: "Cousin Bob was very anxious to return, did not remain at home but one night. He feared the fighting would come off while he was at home. He is in high spirits."
June 26th, 1864: "We have sent for Dr. Windes this morning, as Ma wishes to know what is really the matter with her arm, as it isn't much better Dr. Windes came down and spent a few hours, pronounced Ma's disease to be rheumatism, sent her some medicine this evening."
July 3rd, 1864: "Went up to Dr. Windes' last Monday evening as I promised, (and) came home yesterday morning. Spent the week very pleasantly. Assisted cousin Atlanta to make a pair of pants for Cousin Bob. One evening cousin Atlanta and I took a ramble through the woods in front of the house and gathered a few blackberries, but dearly did I pay for them, for the mosquitoes and red bugs came very near carrying me off. They were worse than I ever saw there."
May 13th, 1865: "As the sun is getting low I will cease and take a walk in the yard which a few weeks ago was a perfect bouquet, but its beauty has also passed away."
That was the final entry in Teresa Milburn's diary. Her life forever changed, she didn't marry till 1888, and then unhappily. She was divorced and lived alone on part of the Milburn property until her death in 1922. A planter of Washington, La. (near Holmesville), wrote of the result of the war in the area: " the country having been subjected to the ravages of both armies for the last two years, leaves us all in a very exhausted and ruined condition and I anticipate much suffering. I have been completely ruined - my lands the only thing remaining (are) totally valueless - my stock has been nearly destroyed and every source of revenue completely dried up."
Another Civil War manuscript concerning family events turned up last year and mentioned two additional incidents involving the Windes plantation. It was written in about 1937, by a cousin named Ann Elizabeth Ferguson Roberts. Her brother was named for Robert Windes. She first mentions her brother, William, who was injured in a battle, and states:
"When the horse got tired running he wanted to stop but the rider was in too much pain to let him stop. He plied the whip and made his horse go till he got to the house of our Uncle (Dr. Windes) 15 miles from the battlefield. He stayed there about four days, then back to his command and found that Robert (their brother, Robert Windes Ferguson) had been fatally wounded and died a few days later of lockjaw. He had no fear of death and said the thought of death did not disturb him like the news of his death would hurt our mother." Later we are told of another incident at the Windes plantation:
"Uncle Windes had it pretty bad experience too. A Yankee courier was found shot dead not far from his house and the Yankees charged it up to him, tho up to the time he knew nothing about it. But that was a good enough excuse for them to hang a southerner. So they put a rope around his neck and led him out to one of the shade trees and threw the rope over a limb, when his Negroes came up and begged for his life. They told the Yankees what a good man he was, and his carriage driver told them that his master never left the premises only when he drove him around in his carriage and testified that his master never carried firearms with him. So his Negroes saved his life. Uncle Windes (told) my brothers about it and said he didn't know he was such a good man till he listened to the Negroes tell the Yankees (that he was).
Bob's take on his life after he returned home is described in one paragraph, found in the BIOGRAPHIC AND HISTORICAL MEMOIRS OF NORTHWEST LOUISIANA. "He has operated his plantation, and has been sufficiently successful to keep out of debt and kept the place free from mortgages. He has been a life-long student of the classics, Greek and Latin, speaks and writes the French language quite proficiently, and reads German. Being in easy financial circumstances, he is (thus) enabled to give his chief attention to literature to the exclusion of money making, and though taking a keen interest in general politics, he is not an active politician and has no aspiration for office. He has written and published a few things in prose and poetry in local journals, but disclaims any pretension to the name and dignity of writer."
It is a very brief abstract for some thirty-five years of his life. And things were perhaps not as simple as Bob would have one believe. Of course, much would happen in the next 22 years of his life also. I wrote the Parish Clerk at Marksville in 1986 to see if they had anything concerning a family story that there was some litigation concerning the ownership of his land after his death. They found nothing but did state that they had located "several suits concerning Mr. Windes." I'd like to research those in the future sometime.
Bob had some poetry published in local papers and periodicals, but complained through his poem entitled, EDITOR AND POET, that the country editors didn't seem to care very much for the Greek and Latin based stories that he wrote, feeling perhaps that such poetry belonged to earlier age. Since Bob wrote mainly in that vein, eventually he would decide to publish his works himself. His poetry does reveal an interest in the fairer sex, and he often speaks of romantic love. He reveals a romance of three days duration, before the Civil War in his poem entitled NIAGARA:
Lady, I shall never forget our meeting
Robert did continue his friendship with Nathaniel Van Woert. They would write each other for decades and some of their correspondence remains with Nathaniel's descendants, including one unpublished and untitled poem written by Bob. They have very kindly shared all the Windes related data with me. In the late 1870's, Van Worst himself wrote a lengthy poem entitled, "SONG OF THE WINDS," and sent it to Bob for his evaluation. Bob sent a lengthy criticism. Van Woert sent back a multi-paged reply, and concluded with the following: "By Penelope! I will have to unravel the thing and reweave it in a set pattern." Bob responded to that letter stating: "I will promise to be less severe next time. I did not mean to be hard on you when I commenced with your 'Ode (Song) to the Winds', but it is so delightful to a 'small wit' to find something to laugh at, and to resist the temptation is more than his nature is capable of. When you put yourself in verse you must follow the path and not kick out of the harness and over turn the vehicle. I say all of this having a perfect right by reason of that sublime elevation. the Critic' s Chair. "Bob also reminisced with his friend Nathaniel about tile "Siege of Port Hudson and the earth holes there."
A young cousin that came to the Windes plantation with her parents for visits described what the house and grounds were like to her young eyes in the closing decades of the eighteenth century. Her name was Alma Tatman, and she was fourteen when Bob died. She later told her daughter:
"They lived in a huge rambling house with many porches, tended by many servants, with silver, china, crystal and rugs, all fabulous to great niece Alma Tatman's childish eyes. When one spent the day there, as she did very often, a servant was always in evidence to walk her about the fabulous rose gardens and to help her pick up acorn cups under the huge oaks also to help her into the harnessed buggy at going home time, loaded with huge baskets of cookies and fruit. At home, Alma's father harnessed his own buggy!"
When Bob reached the age of sixty, he thought it time to privately publish some of his beloved poetry. His first book, OSBULBAHA AND OTHER POEMS, was published "by the author" in New Orleans in 1891. There are two lengthy poems, "Osbulbaha" (Choctaw for Mockingbird), with a Native American theme, and "The Ampheians," a Greek poem set at the end of the "first Messenian war". The final section is entitled "Stray Verses!" It is a compilation of short poems written over a period of several years. Two of them deal with conditions in the south after the war, CARPET BAGGERS and RECONSTRUCTION. Bob was angry over both of those post-war conditions.
After the death of his Aunt Atlanta, Bob continued his poetry and published his last book, ATHENAIOS, A SATYRIC DRAMA AND OTHER VERSE in 1912, using the Roxburgh Publishing Company in Boston. The book opens with a subtitle "Dramatis Personae," followed by VENUS - CAIUS - JULIUS CAESAR. Then comes, CHORUS OF PIRATES, MEN AND WOMEN SCENE: THE ISLE OF PHARMACUSSA. The lengthy dramatic poem is in classic language. Numerous individual poems are assembled at the back of the volume, dealing with a variety of subjects, though two are centered on his participation in the Civil War. Bob's poem, VETERAN'S REUNION, is especially poignant, as he speaks to a close friend who fell in his first encounter with the enemy. He wrote in part:
What and where art thou, in the first encounter
Colonel Charles Dreux, as the very first fallen of Louisiana's sons, was given a major funeral in New Orleans after his death, and his name was well known in Louisiana circles. He had been a New Orleans lawyer and state legislator before the war. Young Robert may have known him both in school and as a lawyer in New Orleans. They may even have worked for the same firm.
And from his poem, EPIGRAMS, Bob quips:
I laughed at one, I don't know who was the ass,
It is believed that during this final chapter of his life, that Bob contacted a former sweetheart, long married, and offered her and her husband his plantation, if they would come and care for him in his final days. One can but wonder if it was the "lady at Niagara." Some say that Robert also had a small house built in nearby Bunkie, so that they would be 'in town'. I currently have no information regarding that house, or if it still exists. It is known that the folks that inherited the actual plantation had the old manor torn down and a new house erected on the same foundation around 1912. They would lose the land in 1919, by over extending. James Augustus Townsend, whose descendants still live at the site, then purchased the plantation. James celebrated his 99th birthday in May of 2001. The second house was torn down in 1989, and a beautiful new home put up at the same location. Thus the old property itself has been continually occupied for 160 years now. Sugar cane is the main crop raised there today.
Three of the poems in ATHENAOIS, printed just prior to the death of Robert Junior, deal with mortality. He seemed to have reminisced about lost friends and lost opportunities, as he grew increasingly old. His state of mind is no more openly revealed, than in his poem "EPISTLE TO ," in which he laments:
Where is all of my promise, my youth might say,
And from his poem, FROM THE FRENCH, he speaks first in French, then in English, of a long lost love and states, "and I behold thee as I then beheld, a rose still fresh with morning dew." He then asks:
What have I done? What have I learnt? Swift is
In his poem SONNETS, he reflects on the terrible fall of the water at Niagara Falls, and writes:
my mind oppressed:
In the surviving correspondence written between Bob and his friend, Nathaniel Van Woert, Bob once reflected, "Be assured that everything is governed by rules, from the grandest operations of nature to the smallest devices of men and mice. Consciously or unconsciously we follow rules in every act."
Edwin LaFleur, whose wife's family were the postmasters at Eola for several decades, recalled only that his aunt, Bessie Carr Hudson, was at the house when Robert Junior died. His take on the family poet was that he was somewhat of a recluse, at least in the final decade of his long life. LeFleur said in closing, "There was an old Negro near me who was born on the Windes place and could have told me many things, but he is gone now " Bob' s name was found in a census of Confederate veterans taken in 1911. He was listed as 81 years old, had served in Boone's 8th, and owned real property worth $9,000.00 (for more than anyone else in his page of the index). He listed his infirmities as 'old age'.
Cornelius Thompson and his wife Emma Scott Thompson were shocked in early December of 1912, when the body of Robert Jr. was brought in a wagon to their large home, which stands on part of the original Ferguson land in Chicot. They had not been told of his death, and so arrangements had to be hurriedly made to notify the community, hold a viewing in their parlor, and then conduct a funeral the following day at Ferguson cemetery. Thompson was a lay minister of the Methodist church and in the absence of a permanent minister, had a little funeral service made up to use if such a need arose. All of these activities in behalf of Robert Jr., were observed by their eight year old daughter, Mabel, and told to me some 83 years later. They loved their cousin Bob, but were a bit upset with the way his demise was handled.
In conjunction with the review of Bob's poetry, there is a personal tale worth telling, involving my treasured copy of OSBULBAHA. In March of 2000, my son logged on to a computer auction site to order music tapes. He invited me to check the site out. I moved into the book area and was amazed to find an original copy of Osbulbaha offered for sale. The auction was due to close in four days. There had been no bids. I bought it for $5.00. On the title page is the pencilled autograph of its author, Robert Dumville Windes Jr. I personal know of only a few copies still is existence, and one of those was once in Florida where the book dealer lived. It is my own little genealogy miracle. Indeed, it may be Bob's personal copy, as some penciled corrections to text and format are noted.
Because of that success, I began checking for Bob's elusive second book of verse, by visiting the e-mail registries of used book dealers. In June 2002, I was again rewarded for my labors. A dealer on Massachusetts Cape Cod offered ATHENAIOS, A SATYRIC DRAMA AND OTHER VERSE, for $20. It's in absolutely mint condition, without a library or private owner bookplate glued in. I currently know of no other existing copy. Talk about your frosting on the cake!
This manuscript would not be complete, without an in depth look at the family burials at Ferguson Cemetery. The ancient family stones found there, once enclosed by grilled rod iron fences, were to provide a major breakthrough in ironing out a few of our problem areas in Windes family research. The writing on the stones, the beauty of their marble and the simplicity of their setting are perhaps unduplicated in the many cemeteries that our family has used in over 370 years in America. Only the Taylor/Windes Cemetery at Union Parish, Louisiana, comes anywhere close to replicating the story that these ancient stones tell. It's appropriate to read the words (touched on previously) that my brother John read at Ferguson Cemetery in 1997 (that I reread there in 1998), and that were penned by Robert Junior:
A buck eye at my head and a white ash at my feet,
Following is a listing of the family related stones found at Ferguson (from the first to the last burial), copied exactly as they read. They are found basically in two areas, with crape myrtle bushes planted near one of the locations. Both areas were once surrounded by iron-fenced enclosures, but the fence that circled the single grave of Robert Windes Junior was stolen many years ago.
FERGUSON, Esther Peake, wife of Dan'l Ferguson - 13 November 1776/Sept. 1824
(the mother-in-law of Robert Dumville Windes Sr. - buried beside her daughter Eugenia)
WINDES, Laura D. Ian 1828/7 Oct 1831 (the daughter of Robert Windes Sr and Eugenia Ferguson)
WINDES, Mary Dumville, daughter of Enoch Windes and Mary Dumville - 1812/1839
(a younger sister of Robert Windes Sr. - Her mother's name was actually Sarah Dumville)
WINDES, Eugenia Peake - died 23 Sept 1859, age 50 years. Wife of Robert Dumville Windes, Sr.
WINDES, Robert Dumville - 19 Jan 1799/9 June 1869. The doctor/planter of Bayou Chicot and Holmesville (son of Enoch and Sarah Dumville Windes)
THOMAS, Atlanta M. Ferguson- 28 Feb 1812/12 July 1906, widow of Silas, daughter of Daniel Ferguson and Esther Peake. (The beloved "Aunt'Lanta" that lived always with the Windes family.)
WINDES, Robert Junior - 19 Feb 1830/7 Dec 1912 (the last of the family, a poet and Civil War veteran)
NOTE: Atlanta and Robert Junior are buried side by side, with nearly matching stones
TATMAN, Robert Windes - 20 May 1854/4 November 1931
TATMAN, Howard Windes - father and son, relatives of Eugenia Ferguson Windes who used the good doctor's surname as their given name.
As previously noted, Eugenia's brother, Austin Peake Ferguson, named a son 'Robert Windes'. That young Robert, a cavalryman, was killed at the bloody Civil War Battle of Mansfield, La., at the age of seventeen. Later his half brother, William Ferguson, named his own son Robert Windes in memory of the one lost in the war. I have a photograph of that Robert Windes Ferguson.
In addition, many of Eugenia's siblings (with spouses, children and grandchildren), rest at Ferguson Cemetery. Mabel Thompson's parents, grandparents and great grandparents are all there. Ms. Mabel plans to rest there in the future, with all of her dear kin. Could there be any other choice hardly!
When my brother John announced that he and Mary were taking a trip to Louisiana in 1997, I quickly stated that they MUST accomplish two things in central Louisiana. One was to visit the old Ferguson Cemetery at Bayou Chicot, and the other to visit the Windes plantation at Eola (formerly Holmesville). Both places provided major highlights of their journey to the South. At Chicot, completely by accident, they met Mabel Thompson, who upon meeting them asked, "Are you George Windes from California?" At the Windes plantation, John introduced himself at the backdoor of the home, by showing his driver's license and was told, "My family has called this the Windes plantation for 80 years and you are the first Windes that I've ever met!" Good friendships would evolve from both those events.
To visit with Ms. Mabel is to travel back to another time, to another age. A lifelong educator, a fourth generation 'Chicot-ite', she and mother both wrote histories for their beloved community. She is now nearly 100 years young, still active in her community and church. Her stories of Robert Junior (always Bob to her), have brought warmth to this little manuscript. Likewise, Janet Townsend Webb, owner of the Windes plantation, graciously welcomed us on two occasions, showing us around, trading data and maps. She has named a 250 year-old oak that stands in front of her beautiful home, in a National Trust, in behalf of Dr. Robert Dumville Windes. She is the epitome of Southern hospitality.
Visits to New Orleans were much anticipated by Louisiana residents. I recently located an old 1847 newspaper listing of "visitors just arrived by boat in New Orleans." Found in it is "Dr. R.D. Windes and lady, along with their son Bob." They were noted as staying at a prestigious hotel in the French District of the city.
The "Records of Louisiana Confederate Soldiers", by Andrew Booth, gives Bob's military data:
Winds, R.D. Jr., Pvt. Corpl. 2nd Fld. Batty. La. Lt. Arty. En. March 1, 1862, Avoyelles Roll Dated June 10, 1862, Present. Apptd. Corpl., March 1, reduced to ranks April 13. Federal Rolls of Prisoners of War, Paroled Port Hudson, La., July _, 1863. Roll to Feb. 29, 1864, Present. Promoted to Corpl., Caisson, Spec. Order No.16, Hdqrs. Boone's Batty. Jan. 20. 1864
My sincere thanks to a dozen other contributors that has added to my databank on this family over the years. To mention only a few, I begin with the late Mr. Edwin LaFleur, the retired resident of Eola who answered my 'letter of inquiry' three decades ago. Also, the late Col. Dudley Tatman of Opelousas, La., for his family data. Col. Tatman was responsible years ago for seeing that Robert Junior was listed in a bibliography of Louisiana authors (and their works), kept through the Special Collections Department of the LSU Libraries. I later donated additional biographical information on Bob to the site. Sue Eakin. who wrote genealogy articles under the title 'Back-Tracking' for the Alexandria-Pineville newspaper, featured, 'The Elusive Windes' in an article that appeared in January 1976. We have since shared data regarding the Windes and their connection to Solomon Northup. In her fine article, she gave samples of Bob's poetry, including a whimsical poem he wrote concerning the early Opelousas Frenchmen and their reaction when the Americans took over Louisiana. It concluded:
Then they shrugged their shoulders and only muttered "Bah! It is al d'sam'" (all the same)
Occasionally, Dr. 'R.D.' Windes and his dear family peer out at me from below the massive oaks at Watermelon Bayou and smile which brings to mind a verse from Bob's Poem, EDITOR AND POET:
I am not the ancient raven, and take my leave,
TWO RECENT DISCOVERIES:
The Becker Medical Library is part of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. The Library (via the Internet) has a database of rare medical texts available for study at its facilities. Under books with titles starting with A=10302:
A SYSTEM OF ANATOMY & PHYSIOLOGY, printed by A. Smellie - England 1801
A description of same lists the following information: A signature of a previous owner is found written on inside cover - R.D. WINDES. A second signature of a previous owner is that of Dr. Harvey Lane. ROOTSWEB identifies Lane as having died in 1824 in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. Dr. Windes, born 1799, probably acquired the book in the 1820s. It is yet another link back to the travel patterns of the Windes, i.e. Ste. Genevieve, Holmesville, etc.
THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY, Volume 69, Issue 414, April 1892, has a section entitled 'Comment on New Books'. On page 565 is found the following:
OSBULBAHA & Other Poems by Robert D. Windes (The Author - New Orleans)
"Between prehistoric Indians and reminiscences of Classic Greek, our poet manages to keep pretty well aloof from contemporaneous interests, for into his antiquity he does not even decant (pour from one vessel into another) the present."
Richard Andrew Dumvill (c1765-1836), cousin of Enoch Windes' wife Sarah Dumville.