Saturday, May 21, 2016

Singleton tells of trip to Red Hills rock overhang that sheltered Confederates

George Buster Singleton
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Rock overhang is place where many could hide” was originally published in the May 27, 1993 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

There are many place within the county where you can seek out the history of events that took place in the early years. You could spend many hours seeking out these special places and never get around to visiting them all.

So many of the old places and their stories have passed into oblivion. In our modern world of fantasy, we tend to forget or care less about history.

With the beautiful weather that we have been having the past few days, nothing short of a charging bull elephant could have kept me from venturing forth and visiting again some of the old places that I have been shown since my arrival in this county.

Prior to the death of my good friend, Oscar Wiggins, several times we would slip off and head into the area near and around the old Red Hills community. This old, rural community was where it all started for Mr. Oscar’s family.

Many times we would visit the old Wiggins homestead. Here, we would search for clues that would remind us of the past among the red clay hills located to the northeast of the town of Monroeville. Finding an old brick or spoon or anything relic was almost like finding gold on the abandoned clay hill.

One day we journeyed not too far from the Red Hills cemetery. I was told that there was something nearby that I needed to see. “I wouldn’t bring just anybody here,” said Mr. Oscar. “This is a special place to me.”

As we descended one of the steep hills down into the lower area, I wondered what could be so interesting way off down here almost next to nowhere. Until now, I hadn’t seen anything but brush and undergrowth and some of the worst terrain that I had been in for a long time.

Off to our right from where we were standing, my friend pointed to a large rock shelf or overhang there on the side of the hill. “Under this rock shelter is where some of our local Confederate soldiers hid out shortly before the Civil War was over. Some of these had been wounded or had deserted their units because of ill health or hunger or other reasons. The story goes that some hid here for several months to keep from being captured by the Union forces.”

After being shown the hideout by my friend, I have made periodic visits to the hideaway during the spring and fall months, especially when the mountain laurel or the fall colors dotted this hillside.

I have sat here under the crude shelter and envisioned the heartaches that must have been felt by those who sought refuge here. Looking at the smoke-stained rock shelter over my head, stained from the smoke of many a campfire, I thought of the hunger and the hurt and the despair of those as they waited, waiting for something that they knew not.

Those men were waiting and expecting at any time for local vigilantes or Union forces to seek them out and kill them or take them prisoner. So it was last week that I returned to this place that has also become very special to me as was with my friend, Mr. Oscar.

The new spring growth of the trees and underbrush gave the old hiding place a different look as to what I remembered since my last visit during the fall months of the past year. If anyone had come this way recently, there was no evidence of a visit. There was much evidence, however, that a pack of wild coyotes had been using the old Rebel hideaway for shelter.

Bones of small animals, such as rabbits and rats, and some bones of a small calf was scattered here and there. Patches of hair showed where these wild coyotes had bedded down here within the past few days.

As I stood there and viewed the crude shelter, I felt that I was being watched by something nearby. Not by the spirits of those Confederates that had sought refuge here, but by several of the coyotes that were probably wondering just what I was doing there.

Slight noises in the underbrush reaffirmed that my every move was being closely observed. Picking up a large stick, I threw it in the direction from where I thought I was being watched. I had picked the right spot; from the underbrush came the sounds of what appeared to be three or four coyotes putting some distance between them and the large stick that I had thrown. For what it was worth to them, I would leave the area when I got good and ready. Besides, I had been here first; this place was special to me.

I kept thinking back to the time when I had brought my metal detector here and had found several musket balls and a belt buckle. A part of a cavalryman’s spur and an old spoon had also been found here.

I felt sure that other items that belonged to those who had hidden here lay buried in the soft dirt beneath my feet. I found myself wondering if any of those poor and sick Rebels had departed this life while hiding here; I wondered, if they had, where were they buried?

Perhaps they had been laid to rest in some unmarked grave somewhere near. I was sure that no marker was in the immediate vicinity. If there had been, we would have found it.

As I sat there and rested, many thoughts raced through my mind. I found myself wishing that I could go back in time and visit this place during the time when those pitiful, beaten warriors had come this way.

I wondered about their ages; were they young men who had gone off to war just to prove to themselves that they could do battle? Or, perhaps they were those, wounded and sick, who were trying to return to the home and family that they had left as they sought to find victory and glory on the many fields of conflict.

A rustle in the underbrush told me that my friends, the coyotes, were returning, seeking out their den. The sounds that I heard also told me that among those returning were some little ones, following the older members of the pack, seeking out a secure place for the coming darkness.

Walking out to where I had hidden my trail bike, I found myself wondering if the coyotes had experienced the same feelings that I had felt, there under the crude rock shelter.

If they did, they might spend some uneasy and restless nights here, where time seems to stand still and mystery fills the air like the smoke from a Rebel campfire…

 (Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School, served in the Korean War, moved to Monroe County in 1961 and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. For years, Singleton’s column “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)

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