Exploit of the Murphree sisters


Bobby Buggs has been posting a lot of old photos on Welcome to Gadsden Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/Gadsden), The Vagabond will include one of his photos this week.

Last week The Vagabond mentioned that Laura Dunning Elliott was hunting for the names of the two ladies that played a part of the capture of Union soldiers. The names were found and more to the story is added. This is the entire story as written by Laura Dunning Elliott:

“This incident is recorded in the biography of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, although I exercised quite a bit of creative license in my version. Wi-nnie Mae (Murphree) Bynum was recognized by the State of Alabama as a heroine of the Civil War. She is buried in Ellis County Tex. Celia Murphree Reneau is buried at Antioch Methodist in Oneonta.

“On May 1, 1863, 18-year old Winnie and her 21-year old sister Celia were sent to care for their brother’s wife, Arminda Murphree, who had just given birth to a beautiful baby girl. Their brother, Arminda’s husband, was away fighting in the Confederate Army, and Arminda was happy for the help and company. The girls’ younger brother Aaron drove them out to Arminda’s cabin, which was located about 18 miles east of Blountsville, Ala. The trio traveled in a buckboard wagon drawn by two mares, each with a young mule colt alongside.

“That same day, Colonel Abel Streight’s Union force was in the area and in desperate need of horses. Three cavalrymen were sent out on a mission to obtain mounts and arrived at Arminda’s cabin. The soldiers killed the colts with a pole axe and confiscated the two mares. They next proceeded to search the barn and the house for guns, food and medical supplies.

“On entering the house, one of the soldiers saw the jug of “spirits” that Grandmother Murphree had left to relieve the labor pains of the young mother. The Union soldier demanded that Celia make three mint juleps, one for him and one for each of his comrades. 

“According to family tradition, one of the girls mixed a vial of toothache medicine (morphine) into the honey, which was then used for making the mint juleps. After two rounds, the soldiers passed out on the ground and the girls took their guns.

Winnie and Celia asked their brother Aaron to douse the soldiers with water to awaken them. Aaron replied that he ‘preferred to douse their heads with the pole axe as they had done his mule colts.’ Celia and Winnie prevailed, and Aaron used water to awaken the men. 

“Celia and Winnie then marched the men into the Confederate bivouac, asked for the commanding officer, and explained how they had easily captured the prisoners. 

General Forrest, seeing that the women were dressed in homespun and barefoot, knew that they were poor and could ill afford the losses they had incurred. The general accepted the surrender of the prisoners and rewarded each of the girls with a handsome mare as a reward for their bravery.”

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