The Story of the Roswell Mill Workers Deportation
by Webb Garrison
On July 5, 1864, Federal General Kenner Garrard's cavalry reached Roswell and finding it undefended, occupied the city. General Garrard reported to General William T. Sherman on July 6, 1864 that..."there were fine factories here, I had the building burnt, all were burnt. The cotton factory was working up to the time of its destruction, some 400 women being employed."
Former Associate Dean of Emory University, Webb Garrison writes of the destruction of the Roswell Mills. He says..."incidents of this sort occurred repeatedly throughout the Civil War. Had the usual attitudes prevailed, the destruction of the industrial complex would have ended the matter. That it did not was due to the temperament and inclination of the man (Sherman)."
What General Sherman did next would shock good people in the North and create a mystery that has endured to this day. On July 7, 1864 Sherman reported to his superiors in Washington..." I have ordered General Garrard to arrest for treason all owners and employees, foreign and native (of the Roswell Mills), and send them under guard to Marietta, whence I will send them North."
On July 7, 1864, Sherman wrote to General Garrard:..." I repeat my orders that you arrest all people, male and female, connected with these factories, no matter the clamor, and let them foot it, under guard, to Marietta, Then I will send them by cars to the North."
A northern newspaper correspondent reported on the deportation...." only think of it! Four hundred weeping and terrified Ellens, Susans and Maggies transported in springless and seatless army wagons, away from their loves and brothers of the sunny South, and all for the offense of weaving tent-cloth.
On July 10, 1864, General Thomas reported the arrival of four to five hundred mill hands, mostly women, in Marietta. Other documents indicate that an undetermined number of children accompanied their mothers. Webb Garrison writes of the women's arrival in Marietta:...." for the military record, that closed the case in which women and children were illegally deported after having been charged with treason." He further writes..."had the Roswell incident not been followed immediately by major military developments, it might have made a lasting impact upon opinion. In this century, few analysts have given it the emphasis it deserves."
In conclusion, Dr. Garrison writes...."The mystery of the Roswell women, whose ultimate fate remains unknown, is one of major importance in its own right. Even more significant is its foreshadowing of things to come."
The mystery of the Roswell women is made up of four to five hundred individual tragedies. Most of these stories are lost to history; however, two of the men involved in the proposed monument are either related to or descended from mill workers. Wayne Bagley of the Roswell Mills Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is related to Adeline Bagley Buice. Adeline was a pregnant seamstress working at the Roswell Mills while her husband was off to war. Deported north with the other women, she went all the way to Chicago. Left to fend for herself as best she could, it would be five years before Adeline and her daughter would return to Roswell on foot. Adeline's soldier husband returned to Roswell. In time, thinking her dead, he remarried. Adeline's grave, in Forsyth County, is maintained with a special marker by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Wayne Shelly is a member of the General Nathan B. Forrest Camp 469 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Rome, Georgia. His grandmother was a teenage mill worker and her mother and grandmother also worked at the Roswell Mills. All three were charged with treason and deported. The mother died on a train between Chattanooga and Nashville, Tennessee. The grandmother died on a steamship on the Ohio River, after being carried aboard in a rocking chair. Wayne's grandmother married a Confederate veteran in Louisville, Kentucky. The two tried to make a new life in Indiana; however, the deportation had ruined the health of the young mill worker and a doctor advised that she would not live through another Indiana winter. The couple then moved south to Cartersville, Georgia.
The War Between the States was, without question, Roswell's moment on the stage of world history. If Roswell has a history, it is surely in part the mill worker' story.
NOTE: Webb Garrison's quotations are from his book Atlanta and the War. He has written articles for "The Atlanta Journal" on the Roswell women and is a leading expert on the incident.