A Confederate Soldier, 2d Co. G, 10th SC Infantry, In the Army of the Confederate States.
Killed by a firing squad of Horry County citizens for taking some grits to feed his starving family.
Summer. 1994 The Independent Republic Quarterly Page 9
Horry Herald Newspaper Feb. 15, 1923 and reprinted Independent Republic Quarterly 1994.
(The same story has been told by older members of the family)
[Editor's note: This article ran three weeks beginning February 1 and ending February 15, 1923. It was followed two weeks later, March 1, by a letter which took issue with some of the facts. We are grateful to Miss Evelyn Snider for calling this interesting feature to our attention.]
CONWAY (SC) STORY BACK IN 1865
How Dennis Todd was Sentenced and Shot
Following the incident which was recorded in our last issue in the closing years of the Civil War, the Yankees came and took Conway.
There was not much population to fear them, but what there was got scared good and plenty. Many of them fled and got out of sight as the Yankee soldiers came in and took possession of the court house and jail, and all such things as they happened to fancy.
Some of the [county] officers and those who were loitering around the public square hid in the thick gallberry and sweet gum bushes which grew as thick as the hairs on the head between the court house and the jail on the spot where the Peoples Filling Station and the Conway Building Company now have brick buildings.
All of the negroes were scared to death and it was some time before they could be revived and made to understand that what the Yankees wanted just then was to get work out of them. The purpose of the Yankees was to free them, but the negroes were too ignorant to understand that.
The soldiers took possession of the old wooden store that stood on the Mayo comer, now occupied by the brick stores of the Conway Trading Company; also the Buck & Beaty store that stood on the comer where F. C. Todd now conducts a large mercantile business in a two-story brick building; also they took possession of an old building which stood where the Todd hotel and bar room was later on built out of long leaf pine and which was standing there until a few years ago when this was torn down to make room for the building which is now occupied by the Farm Implement Company.
These were the quarters of the soldiers during the period of weeks that they occupied Conway. There was not many of them as the size of the quarters would indicate.
It had been hard times in Conwayborough, and all over Horry County, as to that matter, but times immediately got much harder in the town than they had been before the soldiers came. They took possession of every pig, every chicken, every cow and steer or heifer that could be found to make food for their cook pots. Those who had these things had to give them up as well as supplies of corn fodder, rice, sweet potatoes and dried beef and bacon. It took much to feed the soldiers while they stayed and they did not stay any longer than was about necessary to wipe out all the food supplies that could be found inside the place and for many miles in the surrounding country. This was not very long before the close of the Civil War when the men could return to their homes and take up life once more in the fields and in the sticks.
The men who went from Horry County to fight the battles of the lost cause were as brave as Horry men have always been. They were schooled in the standing of the hard knock before they went to the war. During the war there was nothing but privation for them. When they returned they came home to face a terrible condition of affairs. Before they left it had been bad enough, and when they returned they found it worse than it had been before. Their little fields were full of bushes and briars in many places. The women and children and the old men had done what they could to raise crops while the war went on, but they had not a minute of time to spend on making improvements or keeping up repairs.
It was to a condition like this that the Confederate soldier, Dennis Todd, expected to return. He had fought through the Civil War as a brave and faithful follower of the cause, and he was on his way back home where he had been doing duty along the coast of eastern North and South Carolina. He was worn out bodily and mentally, and was foot-sore from the long tramp after the surrender and he was allowed to start his trip back.
He had lived in this section, which is now Horry County, and had a wife and children left back at home to get along as best they could without his efforts while the war was fought out to a finish. His heart was gladdened as he tramped along the rough paths coming back to see them after an absence of perhaps several years. On the way he heard from them. An acquaintance saw him and told him that his wife and children were starving; that they had nothing to eat and owing to sickness were unable to work for it even if employment had been obtainable.
Dennis had no money and but little resources of any kind. His only hope to help his family was to take what he could and carry to them. He began to look along the way for supplies of some kind that he might requisition and add to the burden under which he would have to trudge the rest of the way.
He passed the home of Ex-Sheriff Graham, some miles above town, where the Prices now live, and in the same old mansion which was erected there by the sheriff. Across the road from the house, with not a soul in sight or seeing, was a cart and on it rested a bag of grits which had been made at the water mill that day. It had been left in the cart until some member of the family would take it in to make food for the folks the coming week.
Dennis Todd helped himself to as much as he could carry of Sheriff Graham's grinding, and with this on his back he was making his way on toward his home.
He did not get away but was caught with the stolen property in his possession. A mob gathered from the surrounding country and this swelled in numbers as he was brought to the county seat. According to the story, as it is told now, the mob did not act as mobs have often done in punishing the wrongdoers--they did not handle him forthwith but undertook to organize the party as a citizen's court.
The mob, however, acted as judge, jury, prosecuting attorney, witnesses and executioners. They held Todd before them and witnesses were brought forward to tell that he had been seen when he took the grinding and tried to slip away down the crooked road with it; that he was followed and the stolen property taken back to the sheriffs home.
What could the poor man do except to stand up in the face of all this and say he had heard his family was starving and that he had taken the property so that he could take them something to eat?
After this he was found guilty by the holding up of hands and his sentence was determined in the same way. Milder punishments were mentioned, such as being whipped at the post, but nothing would satisfy the mob except the death of Todd. The majority decided that the man should be shot to death.
Dressed in scanty clothing, his feet covered with sores and bleeding, weak from his long tramp with but little to eat, and almost no sleep, he was hardly able to walk to the place of execution. With tears streaming down his furrowed face he begged and pleaded with them to spare him for the sake of his wife and children; he would fain pay for the thing he took many times over if given his life and the time to work. There was no appeal that he could make strong enough to turn the hearts of stone.
They did not kill him in the street, but decided to take him outside. He was taken across the Kingston Lake to a point near what is known as the ship yard. There he was placed in front of a row of men with shot guns and at a word from the leader the poor, weak body of Dennis Todd fell in a heap, riddled by many gunshot wounds.
Among the men who acted as the slayers of Todd were many whose descendants are now numbered among the best citizens of the county. The names of most of them could be printed here, but it would answer no good purpose.
Here is a lesson to be learned. There is no justice in the mob. During that same year and the year before, pushed by the stern necessity of preserving life, raids had been made in many sections upon the barns and stores of citizens. Raids were made in view of the few officers of the law and not a hand was turned to enforce the law. In the case of Dennis Todd, a man had taken a few quarts of meal from a rich man who had lived well off the labor of slaves, and the spirit of the mob said to take his life, and it was accordingly done.
The enforcement of law and order by due processes of the law may have its drawbacks.
There may be delays. There is nothing in life here that is perfect for it is not according to nature to be perfect. At the same time we can see the great difference in the two ways of enforcing demands. The one is safe and gives time for reason to act, while the other is the result of ignorance and passions turned loose to work their ways without any reason.
Brothers and Sisters:
John H. Todd, 1830-1863, CSA
Elizabeth J. Todd, 1829-
Martha C. Todd Grainger, 1834-1860
Lemuel M. Todd, 1836-1863, CSA
Elmore Todd, 1842-
Hilliard Todd, 1844-1902, CSA
James Melvin Todd, 1846-1863, CSA
Grandson of Henry Todd 1771-1869, buried at Cherry Hill Baptist Church Cemetery also. Dennis' great-grandfather William Todd who came from Scotland.