Heroines of the South
As General Forrest frantically searched for an alternate route across the Black Creek Ford about three miles from Gadsden, Alabama, the enemy was quickly approaching. The stream was overflowing and the bridge was broken so General Forrest retreated into the town in hopes of locating another way around the flooded creek. Upon entry into the town, General Forrest knocked upon a stranger’s door. A young lady answered the door and General Forrest implored that if any individual knew an alternate route to cross the stream, he needed them to lead him and his men to safety. No man was present in the home and the young lady explained to General Forrest that she could lead him and his men across the stream. Her name was Miss Emma Samson. Her mother refused to allow her daughter to leave with a gentleman that she did not know, “[s]ir, my child cannot thus accompany a stranger” she said sternly. General Forrest explained who he was and that Miss Emma could ride behind him upon his horse. “Madam, my name is Forrest, and I will be responsible for this young lady’s safety.” The mother consented after the explanation of who General Forrest was, “[o]h, if you are General Forrest she can go with you”, and Miss Emma Samson and General Forrest and his men were off into the woods. While being under fire from the enemy, Miss Emma Samson safely led General Forrest and his men across the stream and refused to leave her post until each man was out of danger.
The astounding and remarkable indications of the incident at Black Creek Ford portray not only the images of Southern women’s traditional roles but the role of Southern women that continue to this day. The belief that a woman needs a man to protect and keep her safe is a traditional belief held by many Southern men that has forced all Southern women into a role of meek and timid creatures that are incapable of providing for themselves. The response of the mother also displays the beliefs about the pious and righteous nature required of Southern women. The social structure and role of women created many years ago in the Deep South is still evident in the South’s society today. The aftermath of the deep beliefs of Southern culture were viewed and still are by many Northern states as regressive and forcing women into submission without options of escape. These notions are seen each day in the South in common every day actions and will continue until the masculinity of the South as a region is broken.
- R.B. Kyle to Governor Shorter, May 25, 1863, in Alabama Historical Quarterly, ed. Howard, M.B. Jr. (Montgomery, Alabama: Alabama State Department of Archives, 1961), 287-288.
- Catherine Clinton, Half Sisters of History: Southern Women and the American Past (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1994), `.