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Shoes are precious
Liberty lore
Shoe Keep
A shoe last - photo by Photo provided.
"Grandma, what is that heavy iron thing on the brick in front of the fireplace?"
I told Keith it was a shoe last. Then he wanted to know what it was.
 "A long time ago, when I was a little girl, my Daddy used that iron thing to mend my shoes and everyone else's in the family. Sometimes he had to cut a new sole from a piece of leather or just use small tacks to tack the sole or heel back on. The shoe last was shaped for the shoe to fit over it and when the tack was hammered the end of the tack was flattened when it hit the heavy piece of iron.
"One day my Daddy had left one tack with the sharp end sticking up in my shoe. It did not take long for me to find it!
"The shoe last was a very valuable piece of equipment and almost every family owned one."
I am glad we do not have to use the shoe last anymore. Shoes were not as easy to get as they are now.
William LeConte, grandson of Louis LeConte who owned the now famous LeConte Rice Plantation near Riceboro, was a private and then adjutant with the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Here is what he wrote about shoes in his autobiography in July 1900 at the age of 62:
"The conflict at Gettysburg had ended and William's group was ordered to guard an ammunition train with the warning that they were to make a forced march and pass the gap in the mountains and land safely without charge on the Virginia side of the mountain before the enemy could reach the gap. The front rank marched to the left of the train and the rear ranks on the right. This portion of Virginia was supplied with pike roads, made of the native limestone rock broken into pieces and covering the surface a foot deep. In the middle of such roads where the horses and vehicles traveled were worn smooth. On the outer edges where the soldiers walked the surfaces were rough and the edges of the stones sharp.
     "We had traveled some 10 miles when we reached the mouth of the gap. Our scouts reported that the whole army had passed through and the Federal cavalry had possession of the gap. This forced our Brigade to travel rapidly for miles along the foot of the mountain to reach the next gap which would let us through to join Lee again. We reached Culpepper Court House about nine o'clock, bringing in the wagons and contents. Between sun-up and nine o'clock that fifth day of July we had covered thirty miles of road.  That was a memorable march to every man that took it but I had special cause to remember it.
About the time we reached the first gap and found we would have to make a detour to escape the enemy, the soles of my shoes commenced to show a disposition to flap and catch as I walked, the pegging having given away.  I tore off strings from the bottom of my shirt to tie around the balls of my feet, but upon the sharp rocks, these very soon wore away. And after "robbing Peter to pay Paul" several times, in a moment of extreme folly I cut off the soles just under the insteps. Very soon what had been Purgatory before, now became Sheol itself. With nothing to securely hold the insoles they soon departed, and then my feet began to blister upon the sharp stones. Remember that I had my oil cloth and blanket (all surplus clothing was thrown away by this time), my cartridge box with 60 rounds of cartridges and an eight pound gun.
Reasonably, blisters filled with water could not stand the weight of my body, so that the last few miles of this-to me-memorable march, blood was oozing from my raw feet. We were hungry when we went into camp and soon after we stacked our arms the cry rang out:  "Second Georgia come and draw rations", which of course had to be cooked. But, as for me, I dropped on the ground without looking for a soft place and there rested (not slept) all night.
The next morning the Orderly Sergeant came to our bivouac and called out, "All barefooted men report to the Quartermaster to draw shoes." That meant me, if it meant anybody, and as I had not dared to stand upon my feet - because inflammation had now set up - I asked a Corporal of the Company to get the shoes for me. He soon returned and reported that the Quartermaster would not deliver, except upon a personal inspection of the applicant, that this was an iron-clad rule he could not depart from.
And I went; but I was very humble, my false pride in my membership of the genus homo had departed with the cuticle of my feet. I went, regardless of the jeers and gibes of my comrades-a soldier must have his joke, even over the grave, and I suspect I must have cut a pretty figure as I crawled upon hands and knees, back and forth over that space of one hundred and fifty yards.
When I awoke from a troubled sleep as the sun shone in my face I was saluted with the voice of my messmate to come and get some breakfast that he had prepared. I was hungry to a degree, but still I would not make the effort necessary to go twenty steps to where he was, and hence he brought me enough to satisfy my hunger.
But the shoes surely did move me.  Oh, how proud I was as I hung them across my arm and crawled back. At this day (in 1900) those shoes would have been extremely stylish and the swim, but they were hardly appropriate for the service of a soldier, marching over pike roads. Imagine, if you please, a very low quartered Oxford Tie of the now prevailing hue of tan and you have my footwear. Not made of Vici Kid, but rather of bull hide, good and thick, but dainty in color and somewhat like a dancing shoe in style. But, how I did value those shoes! How lovingly I clung to them. After finding that I could crawl about as well as I did when I was an infant, I commenced going to my meals, but I carried my shoes, too, on my arm.
I had much time for ruminating along here and I would take up those shoes and go over their good points, one by one, and the chief one to me was that they had SOLES.  No, I could not put them on, but I was petting up my feet wonderfully and the Doctor was kind to furnish me with unguents and bandages. So, I doctored my feet, (which by this time were discharging pus), and admired my shoes.
It was while I was in this deplorable condition that Mr. Anderson came to our Company grounds and handed me an official document from the War Department. This was a Commission as First Lieutenant and Adjutant of the 66th Georgia Volunteers, J. Cooper Nisbet, Colonel commanding. With the commission was a furlough for 30 days, after which I was ordered to report for duty to the Regiment. Some two or three months before this, Nisbet, who was then a Captain of a company in the 21st Georgia, came over to our command to urge me to come back to Georgia and help him raise a Regiment. We were then about to start on this trip of invasion and I was not willing to come home; I felt as though it would look badly. But now that the campaign was over and I was "hors du combat", Brother Clifford urged me to accept.
Still unable to wear my shoes, I managed to hobble to the station, still carrying my shoes on my arm. I had been fortunate to get a new suit of underclothes, including a pair of socks from our Georgia Relief Society, so I co-signed all my old "duds", with their numerous occupants, i. e., Graybacks, to the flames. I needed no Saratoga trunk to carry my effects. I still retained my roll of oil cloth and blanket, so my shoes were all the other incumbrances I had.
The joy of being home once more, with the dear ones to cuddle and nurse and feed me was unspeakable! It seems to me I concentrated all the purely sensual pleasures of six months in that short thirty days. During this time I sent to Charlotte, N. C., where we had relatives who were connected to the woolen mills of that place, and secured enough Confederate Gray cassimere to make me a coat and pants (officer's uniform). When I mounted my horse with my roll tied behind me and my new uniform on, one would have hardly recognized the war emaciated, ragged private of a month past in this gay officer, with his tinsel braid on sleeve and collar, sleek and fat from good cooking. But, best of all, I was wearing my precious pair of new shoes that had been issued to me!"
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