Memphis Fast Fiction Home

For long, painful seconds, she was unsure if she was alive or dead.

But the ache of her limbs, the coughing in her lungs, and the pitiful cries of her child assured her that she was.

“Mary? Are you alright?” She called out.

“I think my dress is ruined,” her daughter whined back.

“Clarence?” She shouted next.

“I’m here, Mrs. Gallagher.” Their negro servant answered back. “Lord, what a mess.”

“Did the building fall down?” Her daughter asked as Mrs. Gallagher lit a match and put the fire to a candle on the table.

Candlelight and shadows spread around them, illuminating the giant hole in the ceiling they’d fallen through when the floor gave out.

“Looks like the whole thing caved in.” Declared Clarence peering into the ruined floors above.

Mrs. Gallagher looked down at her feet, and gave thanks for the bags of loose cotton that had broken their fall.

“This is a catastrophe.” Her daughter announced.

“Very good vocabulary usage, dear.”

“Mrs. Gallagher?” She could hear the apprehension in Clarence’s voice. “What are we going to do?”

“Well, we’re in the basement storeroom. There’s loading stairs in the rear of the building. God will provide for the rest.”

Memphis Note
In 1864 a multipurpose Memphis government building on Adams street collapsed, killing six and trapping several more in the rubble. Amongst those trapped were Mrs. Gallagher, her daughter and their servant. Keeping her wits, Mrs. Gallagher was able to safely rescue her family by exiting from a loading bay in the back of the building. A feet the New York Times would report as “miraculous”.


He poked at the last ember of the fire with a stick. The waning heat from the coals tightened the skin across his face and dried the tears that rolled down his face.

Behind him, he heard his father struggling with the body, rolling it in a sheet they’d pulled from the carpet bagger’s things after they’d killed him.

“Paw,” he began ask a question, the couldn’t quite figure out what he wanted it to be.

“Yeah, boy?” His father answered curtly, as he cinched the legs together with a length of rough spun rope.

“Why’d we have to kill that man, again?”

“Like I tol’ you before: so them Yankee bastards don’t think they can just come down here and turn us into slaves.”

“Won’t people find the body?

Shaking his head, his father stood up and examined his handiwork.

“The river’s good for more than just shippin’ cotton and lookin’ at while you drink.”

His father gave the wrapped corpse a sharp kick, and it slid down the muddy bank into the black waters of the Mississippi.

“Any luck, the current’ll drag it straight to Memphis. Ain’t no way they’ll mistake that, huh, boy?”

“I suppose not, sir.”

Memphis Note
The Mississippi has probably had more bodies dropped in it than all the graves both in and around Memphis. Its strong currents and a few heavy stones were you needed to destroy any evidence of a murder. A fact that was utilized far too often by the bandits that operated during and after the Civil War.

Annabeth Novitzki

The good lieutenant escorted her home from the dance, he and the belle weathering scornful looks from the old families and pro-secession youth.

He opened the white picket gate that encircled her home, and let her through. As she passed, her elbow grazed his side and he winced.

“My good sir, are you alright?” She asked, a concerned look on her face.

“It’s nothing. Merely bruises from a few locals that had too much to drink, and wouldn’t bow to proper authority. I assure you, they came out far worse than we did.”

“So brave.” She pressed her linen handkerchief into his his palm. It was soft and warm, and he imagined it smelled of her. “Here, this shall protect you from such danger in the future.”

“My lady, I doubt that even such a wonderful gift as this would be enough to protect me from a rain malicious blows.”

She smiled, a demure but knowing smile, and then whispered in his ear. “But then, it shall be my responsibility to kiss each bruise to make it better.”

And that is how she left him for the first, but not the last, time – stunned and reeling on her sidewalk.

Memphis Note
The Union occupation of Memphis went on for most of the Civil War, and in that time, the two sides had to more or less learn to live with each other. Resentment still festered against the Union, and fights between drunken groups of men were not uncommon – which was the primary reason alcohol sales were banned. But, even with that tension, some Romeo and Juliet connections had to have been made.

Rikki Boyce

In her arms, the kitten started to purr, oblivious to the human drama playing out around it. The teenage girl was holding it tight, hiding under her bed in the shack she shared with her fathers and brothers.

When the white men with torches and clubs came into the freedmen’s camp, her father told her to stay hidden until he returned, then took her brothers out to what men sometimes must do.

The angry shouts started shortly after and were quickly overtaken by the din of a riot. She’d lost all track of time since then. It could’ve been hours, or mere minutes.

It broken her heart to think of such violence coming to the peaceful, eclectic settlement hers and other freed slave families had built.

From outside the thin walls of the shack, she heard a man scream in pain, cutting through everything else. The girl was unable to tell if it belonged to some one she knew or not.

Then she noticed her kitten had stopped purring. 

It had fallen asleep. She petted it hard so it awoke and began to purr again.

The purring of that kitten was the only sound she could stand to hear now.

Memphis Note
Once Memphis was captured by the Union in 1862, the black population exploded as escaped slaves flocked to the city. They settled in contraband camps – renamed freedmen’s camps after the Emancipation Proclamation – and some joined the Union Army. However, this population growth caused friction with the white population of the city, which exploded into one of the worst race riots in US history in 1866, from which the city has never fully recovered.

Patrick Woods

When I quit Memphis, I knew most of my acquaintances must’ve thought my rather sudden love of the secessionist movement a rather strange turn of character.

Sadly, the reality was one of cowardice and not patriotism. I’d run up some rather serious gambling debts in the weeks before the Union took the city, and I doubted my debtors would be so lugubrious in seeking repayment once marshal law lifted.

I petitioned the Provost Marshal for a pass out of the city, claiming I had a sickly mother in Alabama that desperately needed my care. A pass was granted, and I left the next day, believing my troubles behind me.

Some time later, I came upon a wagon of men traveling along the same road. They said they were refugees fleeing the tyranny of Union occupation. Jokingly, I professed to be a kindred soul, and they promptly offered me passage on their wagon.

Once I’d settled into a free space, the men around me struck into a Confederate fighting song I had never heard before.

And promptly followed it with ten more.

A sinking feeling grew in me that I’d escaped one bad situation by leaping head-long into the next.

Memphis Note
Special Order Number 1 was issued when the Union forces took Memphis during the Civil War. It established marshal law, and gave a window of time for men to either take the oath of loyalty to the United States, or petition for pass to leave the city. Several less than scrupulous people took this as an opportunity to flee various forms of debts by escaping to the other side of the Union lines.