My Sweeney Family Page
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Maria Louisa Konvalinka, daughter of Jan (Nepomuk Josef) Konvalinka, married John A. Sweeney.
A Memoir Prepared by John A. Sweeney:
Reminiscences of the Civil War by a Boy Who Served as a Private on the Confederate Side
I was born in a small village on the coast of Florida, and my youthful days were spent in fishing, swimming, chasing snakes and other sports of that time. There was no school in the village -- hence the only schooling I had was such as was taught me at home by an elder sister.
When I was but eleven years of age my parents removed to Mobile, Alabama. I was there sent to the Public School, and as I was a low country lad the boys guyed me unmercifully, but when they found I was able to protect myself against some of the "bullies' and not only to protect myself but to give a few of them a good thrashing, they let me alone, and for the few years I was able to remain at school I managed to get the limited education which I now possess.
With these few preliminaries I will now give my recollections of events just prior to and during the Civil War. I was but a youth of 13 when the elections of 1860 occurred, but I took great interest in the results. Whenever a political meeting or parade took place I knew of it, and when my parents thought I was sound asleep in my bed I would steal out to hear the speaking, or to carry a torch in the parade. I remember distinctly the day Stephen A. Douglass arrived, and how he was taken from the station on the shoulders of two strong men and carried over the cotton bales which then covered the docks, and of the crowd that gathered .to hear him speak that night from the Court House steps. I was from Breckenridge & Lane, and on the outskirts of the crowd kept yelling: "Hurrah for Breckenridge & Lane, until a cop threatened to lock me up, when I ceased. A man near me, evidently drunk, hurrahed for Lincoln, but fortunately for him a policeman was near or he would have been torn to pieces by the excited crowd.
When the election was over and it was known Lincoln had been elected, a plall seemed to settle upon the whole City, and day and night men could be seen gathered in small crowds discussing in subdued tones their fears of its result. When South Carolina seceded a thrill of joy, sorrow or fear seemed to settle upon the whole community -- but among the the young men joy predominated. My father was opposed to secession, but as that was the popular idol at the moment he prudently kept his counsel.
When Alabama seceded a mighty shout arose and cannon boomed all that day and night and every house in the city was illuminated from top to bottom. We were then living in the suburbs of the city and that night the fences, gates and arches of all the surrounding houses were illuminated with candles while bonfires were glowing in every direction. Young men, old men, boys and even negroes gathered from far and near in front of our next neighbors to celebrate the event.
Alas, how many of the young men gathered there that night were soon to be slaughtered on the battle field. Events followed events quickly after this, but among my first recollections was the starting for Virginia of the military companies -- the militia -- who had been our pride when war was not thought of. I cannot help but smile even now when I recall their departure. As each company left it seemed the whole city was gathered at the depot or dock to send them off; everyone had something to give theirs -- either a boiled ham -- pies, cakes, flowers, some article of bedding -- even to pillows.
Of course everybody expected to see them return in two to three months and all -- except a few of the older men -- looked upon it as a holiday excursion, and that the northern people would not fight, but when they saw South meant to secede in earnest, they would let her go peaceably.
(end of memoir)
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