The   Roswell Women
By Tommie Phillips LavCavera, Historian General for UDC
from the February Program

In 1839, Roswell King moved from Darien, Georgia, to a site about twenty miles north of Atlanta and founded the town of Roswell.  It  was there, on the banks of Vickery's Creek which empties into the Chattahoochee River, that he and his son Barrington built the Roswell Manufacturing Company.
    After King died in 1844, Barrington expanded the mill.  Four mills were operating in Roswell when the War Between the States began:  The Ivy Woolen Mill, owned by two of Barrington's sons, James and Thomas King; two cotton mills, owned by Barrington; and The Lebanon Four Mill, owned by Roswell Manufacturing Company.  Each factory employed 300 to 400 people, most of them women and girls.  The factories' main production during the War was woolen cloth for uniforms and tent material.  Since the majority of the men of the area had left to join the fighting, the mills were staffed primarily by women. 
  Governor Charles McDaniel and his business partner, Colonel James Rogers, bought property in Campbell County, about sixteen miles southwest of Marietta at the junction of Sweetwater Creek and the Chattahoochee River, in 1845 and erected a textile mill, the New Manchester Manufacturing Company on Sweetwater Creek
    In time a town, New Manchester, sprang up around the mill.  The Mill produced thread and a course cotton cloth called osnauburg.  During the War, cloth, thread and patterns were supplied  to women from the surrounding area for making Confederate uniforms.  When the uniforms were finished and returned, the women were paid for their finished work.
    Like Roswell, the mill was staffed mainly by women, old men and children, with many of the mothers bringing their children with them to work.  These mills became most important to the Confederate Government for the much needed materials they produced.
  During the summer of 1864, the Union Army under the leadership of General William T. Sherman advanced toward Atlanta.  In the face of superior numbers, General Joseph E. Johnston, Commander of the Army of Tennessee, had retreated from Chattanooga through Cassville and Kennesaw.  As the Confederates withdrew across the Chattahoochee River, they burned many of the bridges and prepared to defend Atlanta.
    On July 2, 1864, the defenseless New Manchester mill was seized without resistance by two regiments of Union cavalry under the command of Major Thompkins and a large body of infantry commanded by Colonel Silas Adams.  Those in charge of the operations of the mill, as well as residents for  the town of New Manchester, were escorted home where they were kept under under guard.   All were told they would be transported west out of the path of the armies where they would be safe from harm when transportation was available.
    A few days later, the cavalry traveled to Roswell where they burned three factories and transported factory workers, mostly women and children, to Marietta where they were placed under arrest and charged with treason.  In Marietta, they were taken to the Georgia Military Institute where they remained for the next week.  On July 7th, General Sherman wrote General Henry W. Halleck, Army Chief of Staff:

I have ordered General Garrard to arrest for treason 
all owners and employees, foreign and native, and send
them under guard to Marietta, whence I will send them
North...... The Women can find employment in Indiana.

    An eyewitness account of the burning of the Roswell mills was left by Union Captain David P. Conynham in his book Sherman's March Through the South:

There were at the time about three hundred 
female operators employed in it, and it was
feeling to witness  show they wept, as this,
 their only means of  support was consigned 
to destruction.                                              

Conynham wrote it was probable that their tears were shed not only because their means of livelihood had been destroyed but also because their homes had been reduced to ashes.
    On July 8th, Major Thompkins and his cavalry returned to Sweetwater Creek.  ON July 9th, about 200 people, women and children and a handful of men, were told they were to be ready to leave in fifteen minutes and could only take with them what they could carry in their hands.  The people still thought they were being moved west.  They were loaded into wagons and when the wagons were full, the women were forced to ride double behind the cavalrymen on their horses.
    Before they left, fires were set to each floor of the factory, the dam was destroyed by a battery of cannons, the company store, the machine shops, and the homes around the mill were put to the torch.  It was with sad hearts that the people watched the destruction of their town and homes.
    Upon their arrival in Marietta, they were placed with the Roswell women and children in the Georgia Military Institute,  the men having been separated from the women.  Thought the women were from New Manchester, they would be forever referred to in official reports and dispatches as the "Roswell Women" or the "Factory Hands".
    On July 15th, approximately 400 women and their children were each given nine days' rations, placed on the trains and sent to a distribution point in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Nashville Daily Times announced the arrival of about 200 operatives from the Sweetwater Factory on July 20th.  The next day, the Louisville Journal reported the evening train from Nashville had brought 249 men, women, and children, "sent here by oreder of General Sherman, to be transferred north of the Ohio River."  and that "when these women & children arrived....they were detained there, advertised to be hired out as servants....".
    The atrocities accorded these women were noted in some newspapers in the North.  The New York Tribune, in reporting the women from Roswell had been loaded into 110 wagons and sent to Marietta, wrote:

    Only think of it! Four hundred weeping
and terrified Ellens, Susans, and Maggies
transported, in the springless and seat-
less army wagons, away from their lovers,
and brothers of the sunny south, and all
for the offense of weaving tent cloth and
spinning stocking yarn.

    The article so moved Major General Grenville M. Dodge, Commander of Sherman's XVI Corps, that he took $100.00 from his pocket and instructed his chief surgeon to hire some of the Roswell girls to help care for his sick and wounded.
General Sherman's deportations caused a furor in the North as the people were outraged over the treatment the captives were given..  The Patriot and Union,  Pennsylvania newspaper wrote:

...It is hardly conceivable that an officer
bearing a United States commission of
Major General should have so far forgotten
the commonest dictates of decency and
humanity...As to drive four hundred penniless
girls hundreds of miles away from their
homes and friends to seek livelihood amid
strange and hostile people.  We repeat our
earnest hope that further information may
redeem the name of General Sherman and
our own from this frightful disgrace.

    Just what happened to the women after they reached Louisville is unclear.  Some were sent to Indiana, but Louisville's provost marshal advertised, "Families wishing seamstresses or servants, can be suited by applying at the refuge quarters on Broadway, between Ninth and Tenth."  When he wrote his Memoirs, Sherman did not even mention the incident, and he only made passing reference to Roswell in his official report.  "    In his book Charged With Treason, Michael D. Hitt related that most of the mill workers from the Roswell Factory returned, and that there was great rejoicing as they rejoined their families.
    Monroe W. King wrote in Destruction of New Manchester, Georgia, that "not one of the New Manchester women ever returned and only a handful of the men.  Most of the man never saw their families again,  most died never knowing the whereabouts of their wives and children".
    Roswell survived the War and continued to thrive, bur on that one fateful day, the town of New Manchester vanished with its several hundred inhabitants.  Tradition has it that around the turn of the century New Manchester was occupied by a group of Mennonites who hoped to established  religious community in the area.  In the early 1920's the site became known as "Sweetwater Camp" where city dwellers could rent a cabin and enjoy fishing and the peace and quiet of the countryside.  The state purchased the site and 2,000 acres on Sweetwater Creek in 1974 and converted it to a state conservation park.  Other than walking trails and a few benches, the area around the factory ruins have been left in its natural state; the bare walls of the factory stand as mute evidence to the cruelty inflicted upon theses Southern women.  Today over a million people visit the site annually.
    In November 1962, during the Sixty-Ninth-Annual General Convention, Richmond, Virginia, Colonel Hartwill T. Byrnum presented a paper on the Rosewll women.  He later wrote: of the ladies present personally informed the writer (Byrnum) that several members of her family, including her grandmother and her grandmother's sister, had been a part of the Roswell group; enroute to Louisville of causes unknown' that her grandmother's husband, a confederate soldier, had at war's end followed the trail to Louisville where the two were reunited and remained.

    Of special interest to this writer are the women from New Manchester, as family tradition (although she has never been able to document it) is that her great-great-grandmother, Martha Freeman Wright, was one of the women sent to Indiana where she died.  Martha's husband Isaac C. Wright, was a prisoner at Fort Delaware at the close of the War.  He returned to Georgia and died June 18, 1906 in Carroll County.


Hitt, Michael D.  Charged with Treason; Ordeal of 400 mill workers during military operations in Roswell, Ga., 1864-65, 1992
King, Monroe W.  Destruction of New Manchester, Georgia; The Story Behind the Ruins at Sweetwater Creek State Park, 1982.

General Minutes, Sixty-Ninth Annual Convention, United Daughters of the Confederacy.

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