A Fictional Account of Quaker War Tax Resistance under the Confederacy

The Haydocks’ Testimony is a novel by Lydia Cope Wood that was “published by request of the Christian Arbitration and Peace Society, Philadelphia” in . It concerns the fate of Quaker conscientious objectors in the Confederacy during the American Civil War, and one character refuses to pay military exemption fines. Here are some excerpts:

…Several friends in the neighborhood had been drafted into the army quite lately, some of whom had no objection to paying the Exemption tax, and thus avoid engaging in bloodshed; but two of them did not feel free to avail themselves of this way of escape and had gone with the soldiery, though refusing to bear arms. This refusal either to pay what the Exemption Act demanded, or to bear arms, excited much wrath among the soldiers with whom they had to deal, and very rough treatment was bestowed upon those courageous followers of Him whose teachings are to “Love your enemies, and pray for those who despitefully use you” No loss of life had, however, befallen those who steadfastly adhered to Christ’s precepts, and their confidence was strengthened by such evidence of His protecting power.

James Haydock did not believe in paying the Exemption tax, and his wife dreaded the possible attempt to force him to either give up his principles or suffer for them.…

In giving an account of the experiences of Friends throughout the South during the civil war, our story almost unavoidably assumes, the cast of a religious controversy. And although it is as far as possible from our purpose to arouse any antagonism in the many truly earnest Christians who hold different views from those maintained by the Quakers, we cannot but put these views, and the steadfast trust with which they were carried out, in the strongest possible light. They were a vital matter with this people, and any trivial handling of the subject would fail to give a true impression of the feeling existing among them. We rejoice in the clear light of today, after twenty-five years have been added to our national history, that many in all Christian denominations are beginning to see the wickedness of war, and to take their stand with the sect which has ever borne testimony against it, suffering almost to the giving up of life, as many years before that time the Friends had also suffered indignity and hardship for their belief in the freedom of all mankind.

The next morning a Confederate officer rode up to the Haydock’s dwelling, and with a courteous bow handed a folded paper to Frances Haydock who came forward to ask what his errand might be. She took it with a sinking heart and carried it to her husband. He opened the paper and read it slowly, while his wife leaned over his shoulder and read likewise. It was an order to report at Richmond for military service, or else to pay the Exemption tax, before the next three days had passed.

James Haydock leaned back and looked up at his wife; her face was white, and a pleading look was in her soft brown eyes; she stroked the wavy locks on his forehead with the same caressing touch as of yore.

“James, will you not pay the tax and stay with us?” she asked.

“Would you have me do so?” he said, looking lovingly at her.

“Many of our Friends have done so,” she responded.

“I know, but what is your own feeling about it?” her husband persisted.

“Oh James, I cannot let you go,” Frances exclaimed, coming round in front of her husband, who, rising, took her in his strong arms in a close embrace, which, while telling her how inexpressibly hard it would be to leave her, in some manner conveyed to her so clear an impression of the strength and power of the Master they both served that she was calmed and comforted.

“I want us to see eye to eye in this matter, Frances, my wife,” James Haydock said.

“We always have, James,” she replied, “and I will not fail you now. But, oh, when will this horrible struggle be over and our country at peace once more?”

“In the Lord’s own time, Frances. He never forsakes those who trust in Him, not one of our Friends have lost their lives.”

Mr. Gordon had served a year in the Southern army, had been wounded, and was now unfit for further service. For some unknown reason Rosco was not as yet drafted, and his frequent association with James Haydock had so far convinced him of the evil of war, that he had never felt willing to volunteer his services to the army. With perhaps a keener observation than his father, Rosco Gordon perceived the shade that had fallen over the usually serene face of his host.

“You are in trouble, Mr. Haydock?” he asked respectfully. “Is any one ill?”

“No one, Rosco,” James Haydock replied, “but trial has come to us in common with our neighbors and in three days I must go to Richmond.”

“I am awfully sorry to hear this, Mr. Haydock,” said the older Gordon. “Why don’t you pay the Exemption tax and stay at home?”

“I cannot feel easy to do that,” replied James Haydock, “although many of our Friends have, it seems to me like assisting in a strife that is altogether opposed to our Lord’s teachings?”

“I do not see why you have to look at it in that way. Why the money goes for provision, for blankets, for tobacco, for quantities of things that don’t hurt anybody, but do them good. Come here, Miss Molly, good-morning to you,” as the girl entered the room, “your good father thinks he must leave you, and I want you to help me persuade him it is all nonsense.”

“You will not do that, I think,” said Molly, gravely.…

“You don’t want him to go, do you, Miss Molly?” pursued Mr. Gordon.

“I would give all I have in the world to prevent it! What shall we do without him?” the girl exclaimed vehemently, raising her eyes to meet those of Rosco Gordon’s fixed on her with earnest sympathy; the bright sunshine lying on the polished floor seemed to throw upward a gleam that kindled a glowing spark in the light hazel eye of the young man.

“Can we do nothing to keep Mr. Haydock at home?” he asked.

“He shall not go,” asseverated Molly.

“The soldiers will take me I fear, Molly, whether I wish to go or not,” said her father, tenderly regarding her.

“Oh, and what will they do to you?” she exclaimed in distress, rising and walking to the window. Rosco followed, but she could neither talk nor listen to his attempts at consolation, and after Mr. Gordon had urged James Haydock once more, to avail himself of the loop-hole offered by the Exemption Act, the visitors mounted their horses and rode away. Just before leaving, old Mr. Gordon whispered to Molly:

“We will pay the tax for your father, my dear, and keep him here in spite of himself.”

“Thank you; he would not allow it. You are very kind, but it is no use,” Molly said sadly.

…toward noon, a band of gray-clad soldiers appeared coming up the avenue leading to the Haydock homestead; they halted at the porch and one of them, seemingly the captain, dismounted and went up the steps, bringing dismay to the hearts of Frances Haydock and her daughter. A knock, neither gentle nor hesitating, was answered by James Haydock himself.

“You’re Mr. Haydock, I take it?” said the soldier, bowing with some politeness of manner as the tall dignified figure confronted him.

“That is my name,” was the reply.

“Well, sir, I’m sorry to say it, but you must shoulder your musket and come with us to Richmond at once. We have a horse ready for you.”

“I will accompany you, but I can neither take arms nor engage in army service,” said James Haydock.

“I suppose you’re a Quaker,” said the Confederate officer. “Well, you’ll just have to put your objections in your pocket now, and join the service like every other decent man has to. Here is your horse, sir. Have you any traps?”

Frances Haydock brought out the small bundle she had prepared for her husband; there was no emotion that threatened to overcome her just now, but a wonderfully calm and uplifted feeling. It had been with her since their morning waiting before the Lord, when they had given themselves to His all powerful protection, and felt His almost visible presence.

“Tom, bring up that horse; now, sir, here’s your musket; take it if you please.”

James Haydock mounted the horse, but the musket remained untouched.

“Why don’t you take it?” exclaimed the captain. “Come, we have no time to waste. Don’t you mean to shoulder it? Remember you are under orders now.”

“I am under orders, but of a higher captain than this world generally acknowledges. He tells me not to shed blood, and I cannot disobey His commands.”

“All confounded nonsense,” impatiently responded the captain. “Still, I am mighty sorry for you all,” he said looking at the family grouped in silence on the piazza, Molly’s arm around her mother’s waist, who, however, hardly looked as if she needed support, but would rather impart strength to others. John’s blue eyes flashed, and he grasped the hatchet with which he had just been cutting wood with a clutch indicating he would like to use it on different material than cedar and light pine.

“Can’t you pay the Exemption fee and stay at home?” asked the officer. “I’ll take that gladly.”

“Thanks for the willingness, but I do not feel easy to do it; it all comes to the same thing,” was the response.

“I don’t see that; but if you won’t pay, just take your musket and come along.”

Still the musket was not accepted…

Long and weary for James Haydock was the journey to Richmond. At first the soldiers taunted and annoyed him in every possible way, but the gentleness with which this treatment was received and the various little helpful actions performed by him whenever opportunity offered, at last won the tolerance, if not the regard, of his companions; and when he went with the captain to report at Richmond to the authorities who were to decide into which regiment he was to be detailed, there was no attempt made to prejudice the officers against him; in fact, another offer was made, even urged upon him, of obtaining immunity from service by paying the Exemption tax. This was, however, distinctly refused and the officer in authority ordered him to be placed in the —— regiment and sent to Petersburg, Virginia. It was at this place that the mining and countermining of the Northern and Southern forces ended later in a scene of such awful destruction that the name of Fort Hell was given to one of the fortifications.

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