As the Civil War moved into the Deep South, many people
fled the shifting war front. Two coinciding events encouraged
Henry Coker to become a refugee: the death of his wife and the
approach of the Union navy, steaming up the Mississippi River
from New Orleans.
After his wife died on April 30, 1862, Coker took his slaves
and the two youngest children to Alabama, near Tuscaloosa.
He returned in 1864.
"Ever since the last raid out here I
have felt like I wished to get away in some
safe place if such a place could be found."
Matilda Champion, Nov. 21, 1863. Matilda went to Madison County for a brief
refuge with her parents.
"How foolish it is for the Southern people to flee
and leave their beautiful property to the foe. We only
want something to eat. There are some who would apply
the torch to a deserted home, that would not do so if the
owners remained in it."
Sgt. Osborn H. Oldroyd, 20th Ohio Infantry
"...I had the pleasure of eating a nice dinner
with our old friend and neighbor, H. B. Coker. We
are camped only 5 miles from him and we talked all
day yesterday till 12 last night. Our old neighborhood
came in for a large share of the thoughts..."
"... Coker is keeping a kind of bachelor
with his dear little children to keep
him company. Maud [sic] is a sweet little girl and
Edward Kenny is a fine boy — now over two years
old — and Coker certainly does stand in need of a wife."
Sid Champion, 28th Miss. Calvary, May 2, 1864, Tuscaloosa County
Destruction of a planter's cotton gin and the confiscation of cotton along
the Mississippi River (right).