A CONFEDERATE GIRL'S DIARY
A CONFEDERATE GIRL'S DIARY
SARAH MORGAN DAWSON
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY WARRINGTON DAWSON AND WITH ILLUSTRATIONS
BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY The Riverside Press Cambridge 1913
COPYRIGHT, 1913, BY WARRINGTON DAWSON
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Published September 1913
THOSE WHO ENDURED AND FORGAVE
SARAH FOWLER MORGAN Frontispiece
From a daguerreotype in the possession of the family.
MIRIAM MORGAN 64
From a daguerreotype in the possession of the family.
JAMES MORRIS MORGAN 114
From a daguerreotype in the possession of the family.
FACSIMILE OF A PAGE OF THE DIARY 150
SARAH FOWLER 192
Sully's portrait of Mrs. Morgan.
Built by General A. G. Carter in 1848, now the home of his grandson, Howell Morgan. This was a Spanish grant and has always remained in the family.
THE ANTE-BELLUM HOME OF JUDGE THOMAS GIBBES MORGAN 308
On Church Street, Baton Rouge, La., now the property of St. Joseph Academy, and used as an annex.
JUDGE THOMAS GIBBES MORGAN 346
It is perhaps due to a chance conversation, held some seventeen years ago in New York, that this Diary of the Civil War was saved from destruction.
A Philadelphian had been talking with my mother of North and South, and had alluded to the engagement between the Essex and the Arkansas, on the Mississippi, as a brilliant victory for the Federal navy. My mother protested, at once; said that she and her sister Miriam, and several friends, had been witnesses, from the levee, to the fact that the Confederates had fired and abandoned their own ship when the machinery broke down, after two shots had been exchanged: the Federals, cautiously turning the point, had then captured but a smoking hulk. The Philadelphian gravely corrected her; history, it appeared, had consecrated, on the strength of an official report, the version more agreeable to Northern pride.
"But I wrote a description of the whole, just a few hours after it occurred!" my mother insisted. "Early in the war I began to keep a diary, and continued until the very end; I had to find some vent for my feelings, and I would not make an exhibition of myself by talking, as so many women did. I have written while resting to recover breath in the midst of a stampede; I have even written with shells bursting over the house in which I sat, ready to flee but waiting for my mother and sisters to finish their preparations."
"If that record still existed, it would be invaluable," said the Philadelphian. "We Northerners are sincerely anxious to know what Southern women did and thought at that time, but the difficulty is to find authentic contemporaneous evidence. All that I, for one, have seen, has been marred by improvement in the light of subsequent events."
"You may read my evidence as it was written from March 1862 until April 1865," my mother declared impulsively.
At our home in Charleston, on her return, she unstitched with trembling hands a linen-bound parcel always kept in her tall, cedar-lined wardrobe of curled walnut. On it was scratched in ink "To be burned unread after my death"; it contained, she had once told me, a record of no interest save to her who had written it and lacked the courage to re-read it; a narrative of days she had lived, of joys she had lost; of griefs accepted, of vain hopes cherished.
From the linen, as the stitches were cut, fell five blank books of different sizes. Two, of convenient dimensions, might have been intended for diaries; the other three, somewhat unwieldy, were partly used ledgers from Judge P. H. Morgan's office. They were closely written in a clear, firm hand; the ink, of poor quality, had faded in many places to a pale brown scarcely darker than the deep yellow to which time had burned the paper. The effort to read under such conditions, and the tears shed over the scenes evoked, might well have cost my mother her sight; but she toiled for many weeks, copying out the essential portions of the voluminous record for the benefit of the Northerner who really wished to know.
Her transcription finished, she sent it to Philadelphia. It was in due course returned, with cold regrets that the temptation to rearrange it had not been resisted. No Southerner at that time could possibly have had opinions so just or foresight so clear as those here attributed to a young girl. Explanation was not asked, nor justification allowed: the case, tried by one party alone, with evidence seen from one standpoint alone, had been judged without appeal.
Keenly wounded and profoundly discouraged, my mother returned the diaries to their linen envelope, and never saw them again. But my curiosity had been roused by these incidents; in the night, thoughts of the records would haunt me, bringing ever the ante-bellum scent of the cedar-lined wardrobe. I pleaded for the preservation of the volumes, and succeeded at last when, beneath the injunction that they should be burned, my mother wrote a deed of gift to me with permission to make such use of them as I might think fitting.
Reading those pages for myself, of late, as I transcribed them in my turn, I confess to having blamed the Philadelphian but lightly for his skepticism.
Here was a girl who, by her own admission, had known but ten months' schooling in her life, and had educated herself at home because of her yearning for knowledge; and yet she wrote in a style so pure, with a command of English so thorough, that rare are the pages where she had to stop for the alteration of so much as one word. The very haste of noting what had just occurred, before more should come, had disturbed the pure line of very few among these flowing sentences. There are certain uses of words to which the twentieth century purist will take exception; but if he is familiar with Victorian literature he will know that these points have been solved within the last few decades—and not all solved to the satisfaction of everyone, even now.
But underlying this remarkable feat of style, are a fairness of treatment and a balance of judgment incredible at such a period and in an author so young. On such a day, we may note an entry denouncing the Federals before their arrival at Baton Rouge; another page, and we see that the Federal officers are courteous and considerate, we hear regrets that denunciations should have been dictated by prejudice. Does Farragut bombard a town occupied by women and children, or does Butler threaten to arm negroes against them? Be sure, then, that this Southern girl will not spare adjectives to condemn them! But do Southern women exaggerate in applying to all Federals the opprobrium deserved by some? Then those women will be criticized for forgetting the reserve imposed upon ladies. This girl knew then what history has since established, and what enlightened men and women on both sides of Mason and Dixon's line have since acknowledged: that in addition to the gentlemen in the Federal ranks who always behaved as gentlemen should, there were others, both officers and privates, who had donned the Federal uniform because of the opportunity for rapine which offered, and who were as unworthy of the Stars and Stripes as they would have been of the Stars and Bars.
I can understand, therefore, that this record should meet with skepticism at the hands of theorists committed to an opinion, or of skimmers who read guessing the end of a sentence before they reach the middle. But the originals exist to-day, and have been seen by others than myself; and I pledge myself here to the assertion that I have taken no liberties, have made no alterations, but have strictly adhered to my task of transcription, merely omitting here and there passages which deal with matters too personal to merit the interest of the public.
Those who read seriously, and with unbiased mind, will need no external guarantees of authenticity, however; for the style is of that spontaneous quality which no imitation could attain, and which attempted improvement could only mar. The very construction of the whole—for it does appear as a whole—is influenced by the circumstances which made the life of that tragic period.
The author begins with an airy appeal to Madame Idleness—in order to forget. Then, the war seemed a sacred duty, an heroic endeavor, an inevitable trial, according as Southerners chose to take it; but the prevailing opinion was that the solution would come in victory for Southern arms, whether by their own unaided might or with the support of English intervention. The seat of war was far removed, and but for the absence of dear ones at the front and anxiety about them, Southern women would have been little disturbed in their routine of household duties. But presently the roar of cannon draws near, actual danger is experienced in some cases, suffering and privation must be accepted in all. Thenceforth, the women are part of the war; there may be interludes of plantation life momentarily secure from bullets and from oppression, yet the cloud is felt hanging ever lower and blacker. Gradually, the writer's gay spirit fails; an injury to her spine, for which adequate medical care cannot be found in the Confederacy, and the condition of her mother, all but starving at Clinton, drive these Southern women to the protection of a Union relative in New Orleans. The hated Eagle Oath must be taken, the beloved Confederacy must be renounced at least in words. Entries in the Diary become briefer and briefer, yet are sustained unto the bitter end, when the deaths of two brothers, and the crash of the Lost Cause, are told with the tragic reserve of a broken heart.
* * * * *
I have alluded to passages omitted because too personal. That the clearness of the narrative may not suffer, I hope to be pardoned for explaining briefly, here, the position of Sarah Morgan's family at the outbreak of the Civil War.
Her father, Judge Thomas Gibbes Morgan, had been Collector of the Port of New Orleans, and in 1861 was Judge of the District Court of the Parish of Baton Rouge. In complete sympathy with Southern rights, he disapproved of Secession as a movement fomented by hotheads on both sides, but he declared for it when his State so decided. He died at his home in Baton Rouge in November, 1861, before the arrival of Farragut's fleet.
Judge Thomas Gibbes Morgan's eldest son, Philip Hickey Morgan, was also a Judge, of the Second District Court of the Parish of Orleans. Judge P. H. Morgan (alluded to as "Brother" and his wife as "Sister" throughout the Diary) disapproved of Secession like his father, but did not stand by his State. He declared himself for the Union, and remained in New Orleans when the Federals took possession, but refused to bear arms against his brothers and friends. His position enabled him to render signal services to many Confederate prisoners suffering under Butler's rule. And it was a conversation of his with President Hayes, when he told the full, unprejudiced truth about the Dual Government and the popular sentiment of Louisiana, which put an end to Reconstruction there by the Washington Government's recognition of General Francis T. Nicholls, elected Governor by the people, instead of Packard, declared Governor by the Republican Returning Board of the State. Judge P. H. Morgan had proved his disinterestedness in his report to the President; for the new Democratic regime meant his own resignation from the post of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Louisiana which he held under the Republicans. He applied then to himself a piece of advice which he later was to give a young relative mentioned in the pages of this Diary: "Always remember that it is best to be in accord with the sentiments of the vast majority of the people in your State. They are more apt to be right, on public questions of the day, than the individual citizen."
If Judge Thomas Gibbes Morgan's eldest son stayed within the Union lines because he would not sanction Secession, his eldest daughter—Lavinia—was on the Federal side also, married to Colonel Richard Coulter Drum, then stationed in California, and destined to become, in days of peace, Adjutant-General under President Cleveland's first administration. Though spared the necessity of fighting against his wife's brothers, Colonel Drum was largely instrumental in checking the Secession movement in California which would probably have assured the success of the South.
In the early days of Secession agitation, another son of Judge T. G. Morgan, Henry, had died in a duel over a futile quarrel which busybodies had envenomed. The three remaining sons had gone off to the war. Thomas Gibbes Morgan, Jr., married to Lydia, daughter of General A. G. Carter and a cousin of Mrs. Jefferson Davis, was Captain in the Seventh Louisiana Regiment, serving under Stonewall Jackson; George Mather Morgan, unmarried, was a Captain in the First Louisiana, also with Jackson in Virginia. The youngest, James Morris Morgan, had resigned from Annapolis, where he was a cadet, and hurried back to enlist in the Confederate navy.
At the family home in Baton Rouge, only women and children remained. There was Judge Morgan's widow, Sarah Fowler Morgan; a married daughter, Eliza or "Lilly," with her five children; and two unmarried daughters, Miriam and Sarah. "Lilly's" husband, J. Charles La Noue, came and went; unable to abandon his large family without protector or resources, he had not joined the regular army, but took a part in battles near whatever place of refuge he had found for those dependent on him. We note, for instance, that he helped in the Confederate attack on Baton Rouge, together with General Carter, whose age had prevented him from taking regular service.
A word more as to the author of this Diary, and I have finished.
The war over, Sarah Morgan knitted together the threads of her torn life and faced her present, in preparation for whatever the future might hold. In South Carolina, under Reconstruction, she met a young Englishman, Captain Francis Warrington Dawson, who had left his home in London to fight for a cause where his chivalrous nature saw right threatened by might. In the Confederate navy under Commodore Pegram, in the Army of Northern Virginia under Longstreet, at the close of the war he was Chief Ordnance officer to General Fitzhugh Lee. But although the force of arms, of men, of money, of mechanical resources, of international support, had decided against the Confederacy, he refused to acknowledge permanent defeat for Southern ideals, and so cast his lot with those beside whom he had fought. His ambition was to help his adopted country in reconquering through journalism and sound politics that which seemed lost through war. What he accomplished in South Carolina is a matter of public record to-day. The part played in this work by Sarah Morgan as his wife is known to all who approached them during their fifteen years of a married life across which no shadow ever fell.
Sarah Morgan Dawson was destined to outlive not only her husband, but all save three of her eight brothers and sisters, and most of the relatives and friends mentioned in the pages which follow; was destined to endure deep affliction once more, and to renounce a second home dearer than that first whose wreck she recorded during the war. Yet never did her faith, her courage, her steadfastness fail her, never did the light of an almost childlike trust in God and in mankind fade from her clear blue eyes. The Sarah Morgan who, as a girl, could stifle her sobs as she forced herself to laugh or to sing, was the mother I knew in later years.
I love most to remember her in the broad tree-shaded avenues of Versailles where, dreaming of a distant tragic past, she found ever new strength to meet the present. Death claimed her not far from there, in Paris, at a moment when her daughter in America, her son in Africa, were powerless to reach her. But souls like unto hers leave their mark in passing through the world; and, though in a foreign land, separated from all who had been dear to her, she received from two friends such devotion as few women deserve in life, and such as few other women are capable of giving.
She had done more than live and love:—she had endured while endurance was demanded; and, released from the house of bondage, she had, without trace of bitterness in her heart, forgiven those who had caused her martyrdom.
VERSAILLES, FRANCE, July, 1913.
A CONFEDERATE GIRL'S DIARY
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA, March 9th, 1862.
Here I am, at your service, Madame Idleness, waiting for any suggestion it may please you to put in my weary brain, as a means to pass this dull, cloudy Sunday afternoon; for the great Pike clock over the way has this instant struck only half-past three; and if a rain is added to the high wind that has been blowing ever since the month commenced, and prevents my going to Mrs. Brunot's before dark, I fear I shall fall a victim to "the blues" for the first time in my life. Indeed it is dull. Miriam went to Linwood with Lydia yesterday, and I miss them beyond all expression. Miriam is so funny! She says she cannot live without me, and yet she can go away, and stay for months without missing me in the slightest degree. Extremely funny! And I—well, it is absurd to fancy myself alive without Miriam. She would rather not visit with me, and yet, be it for an hour or a month, I never halfway enjoy myself without her, away from home. Miriam is my "Rock ahead" in life; I'll founder on her yet. It's a grand sight for people out of reach, who will not come in contact with the breakers, but it is quite another thing to me, perpetually dancing on those sharp points in my little cockleshell that forms so ludicrous a contrast to the grand scene around. I am sure to founder!
I hold that every family has at heart one genius, in some line, no matter what—except in our family, where each is a genius, in his own way. Hem! And Miriam has a genius for the piano. Now I never could bear to compete with any one, knowing that it is the law of my being to be inferior to others, consequently to fail, and failure is so humiliating to me. So it is, that people may force me to abandon any pursuit by competing with me; for knowing that failure is inevitable, rather than fight against destiny I give up de bonne grace. Originally, I was said to have a talent for the piano, as well as Miriam. Sister and Miss Isabella said I would make a better musician than she, having more patience and perseverance. However, I took hardly six months' lessons to her ever so many years; heard how well she played, got disgusted with myself, and gave up the piano at fourteen, with spasmodic fits of playing every year or so. At sixteen, Harry gave me a guitar. Here was a new field where I would have no competitors. I knew no one who played on it; so I set to work, and taught myself to manage it, mother only teaching me how to tune it. But Miriam took a fancy to it, and I taught her all I knew; but as she gained, I lost my relish, and if she had not soon abandoned it, I would know nothing of it now. She does not know half that I do about it; they tell me I play much better than she; yet they let her play on it in company before me, and I cannot pretend to play after. Why is it? It is not vanity, or I would play, confident of excelling her. It is not jealousy, for I love to see her show her talents. It is not selfishness; I love her too much to be selfish to her. What is it then? "Simply lack of self-esteem" I would say if there was no phrenologist near to correct me, and point out that well-developed hump at the extreme southern and heavenward portion of my Morgan head. Self-esteem or not, Mr. Phrenologist, the result is, that Miriam is by far the best performer in Baton Rouge, and I would rank forty-third even in the delectable village of Jackson.
And yet I must have some ear for music. To "know as many songs as Sarah" is a family proverb; not very difficult songs, or very beautiful ones, to be sure, besides being very indifferently sung; but the tunes will run in my head, and it must take some ear to catch them. People say to me, "Of course you play?" to which I invariably respond, "Oh, no, but Miriam plays beautifully!" "You sing, I believe?" "Not at all—except for father" (that is what I used to say)—"and the children. But Miriam sings." "You are fond of dancing?" "Very; but I cannot dance as well as Miriam." "Of course, you are fond of society?" "No, indeed! Miriam is, and she goes to all the parties and returns all the visits for me." The consequence is, that if the person who questions is a stranger, he goes off satisfied that "that Miriam must be a great girl; but that little sister of hers—! Well! a prig, to say the least!"
So it is Miriam catches all my fish—and so it is, too, that it is not raining, and I'm off.
Until that dreary 1861, I had no idea of sorrow or grief.... How I love to think of myself at that time! Not as myself, but as some happy, careless child who danced through life, loving God's whole world too much to love any particular one, outside of her own family. She was more childish then—yet I like her for all her folly; I can say it now, for she is as dead as though she was lying underground.
Now do not imagine that Sarah has become an aged lady in the fifteen months that have elapsed since, for it is no such thing; her heart does ache occasionally, but that is a secret between her and this little rosewood furnished room; and when she gets over it, there is no one more fond of making wheelbarrows of the children, or of catching Charlie or mother by the foot and making them play lame chicken.... Now all this done by a young lady who remembers eighteen months ago with so much regret that she has lost so much of her high spirits—might argue that her spirits were before tremendous; and yet they were not. That other Sarah was ladylike, I am sure, in her wildest moments, but there is something hurried and boisterous in this one's tricks that reminds me of some one who is making a merit of being jolly under depressing circumstances. No! that is not a nice Sarah now, to my taste.
The commencement of '61 promised much pleasure for the rest of the year, and though Secession was talked about, I do not believe any one anticipated the war that has been desolating our country ever since, with no prospect of terminating for some time to come. True the garrison was taken, but then several pleasant officers of the Louisiana army were stationed there, and made quite an agreeable addition to our small parties, and we did not think for a moment that trouble would grow out of it—at least, we girls did not. Next Louisiana seceded, but still we did not trouble ourselves with gloomy anticipations, for many strangers visited the town, and our parties, rides, and walks grew gayer and more frequent.
One little party—shall I ever forget it?—was on the 9th of March, I think; such an odd, funny little party! Such queer things happened! What a fool Mr. McG—— made of himself! Even more so than usual. But hush! It's not fair to laugh at a lady—under peculiar circumstances. And he tried so hard to make himself agreeable, poor fellow, that I ought to like him for being so obedient to my commands. "Say something new; something funny," I said, tired of a subject on which he had been expatiating all the evening; for I had taken a long ride with him before sunset, he had escorted me to Mrs. Brunot's, and here he was still at my side, and his conversation did not interest me. To hear, with him, was to obey. "Something funny? Well—" here he commenced telling something about somebody, the fun of which seemed to consist in the somebody's having "knocked his shins" against something else. I only listened to the latter part; I was bored, and showed it. "Shins!" was I to laugh at such a story?
Day before yesterday, just about this time of evening, as I came home from the graveyard, Jimmy unexpectedly came in. Ever since the 12th of February he has been waiting on the Yankees' pleasure, in the Mississippi, at all places below Columbus, and having been under fire for thirteen days at Tiptonville, Island No. 10 having surrendered Monday night; and Commodore Hollins thinking it high time to take possession of the ironclad ram at New Orleans, and give them a small party below the forts, he carried off his little aide from the McRae Tuesday morning, and left him here Thursday evening, to our infinite delight, for we felt as though we would never again see our dear little Jimmy. He has grown so tall, and stout, that it is really astonishing, considering the short time he has been away.... To our great distress, he jumped up from dinner, and declared he must go to the city on the very next boat. Commodore Hollins would need him, he must be at his post, etc., and in twenty minutes he was off, the rascal, before we could believe he had been here at all. There is something in his eye that reminds me of Harry, and tells me that, like Hal, he will die young.
And these days that are going by remind me of Hal, too. I am walking in our footsteps of last year. The eighth was the day we gave him a party, on his return home. I see him so distinctly standing near the pier table, talking to Mr. Sparks, whom he had met only that morning, and who, three weeks after, had Harry's blood upon his hands. He is a murderer now, without aim or object in life, as before; with only one desire—to die—and death still flees from him, and he Dares not rid himself of life.
All those dancing there that night have undergone trial and affliction since. Father is dead, and Harry. Mr. Trezevant lies at Corinth with his skull fractured by a bullet; every young man there has been in at least one battle since, and every woman has cried over her son, brother, or sweetheart, going away to the wars, or lying sick and wounded. And yet we danced that night, and never thought of bloodshed! The week before Louisiana seceded, Jack Wheat stayed with us, and we all liked him so much, and he thought so much of us;—and last week—a week ago to-day—he was killed on the battle-field of Shiloh.
Among the many who visited us, in the beginning of 1861, there was Mr. Bradford. I took a dislike to him the first time I ever saw him, and, being accustomed to say just what I pleased to all the other gentlemen, tried it with him. It was at dinner, and for a long while I had the advantage, and though father would sometimes look grave, Gibbes, and all at my end of the table, would scream with laughter. At last Mr. Bradford commenced to retaliate, and my dislike changed into respect for a man who could make an excellent repartee with perfect good-breeding; and after dinner, when the others took their leave, and he asked permission to remain,—during his visit, which lasted until ten o'clock, he had gone over such a variety of subjects, conversing so well upon all, that Miriam and I were so interested that we forgot to have the gas lit!
And another was silly little Mr. B——r, my little golden calf. What a—don't call names! I owe him a grudge for "cold hands," and the other day, when I heard of his being wounded at Shiloh, I could not help laughing a little at Tom B——r's being hurt. What was the use of throwing a nice, big cannon ball, that might have knocked a man down, away on that poor little fellow, when a pea from a popgun would have made the same impression? Not but what he is brave, but little Mr. B——r is so soft.
Then there was that rattle-brain Mr. T——t who, commencing one subject, never ceased speaking until he had touched on all. One evening he came in talking, and never paused even for a reply until he bowed himself out, talking still, when Mr. Bradford, who had been forced to silence as well as the rest, threw himself back with a sigh of relief and exclaimed, "This man talks like a woman!" I thought it the best description of Mr. T——t's conversation I had ever heard. It was all on the surface, no pretensions to anything except to put the greatest possible number of words of no meaning in one sentence, while speaking of the most trivial thing. Night or day, Mr. T——t never passed home without crying out to me, "Ces jolis yeux bleus!" and if the parlor were brightly lighted so that all from the street might see us, and be invisible to us themselves, I always nodded my head to the outer darkness and laughed, no matter who was present, though it sometimes created remark. You see, I knew the joke. Coming from a party escorted by Mr. B——r, Miriam by Mr. T——t, we had to wait a long time before Rose opened the door, which interval I employed in dancing up and down the gallery—followed by my cavalier—singing,—
"Mes jolis yeux bleus, Bleus comme les cieux, Mes jolis yeux bleus Ont ravi son ame," etc.;
which naive remark Mr. B——r, not speaking French, lost entirely, and Mr. T——t endorsed it with his approbation and belief in it, and ever afterwards called me "Ces jolis yeux bleus."
 Note added at the time: "O propriety! Gibbes and Lydia were with us too."
April 19th, 1862.
Another date in Hal's short history! I see myself walking home with Mr. McG—— just after sundown, meeting Miriam and Dr. Woods at the gate; only that was a Friday instead of a Saturday, as this. From the other side, Mr. Sparks comes up and joins us. We stand talking in the bright moonlight which makes Miriam look white and statue-like. I am holding roses in my hand, in return for which one little pansy has been begged from my garden, and is now figuring as a shirt-stud. I turn to speak to that man of whom I said to Dr. Woods, before I even knew his name, "Who is this man who passes here so constantly? I feel that I shall hate him to my dying day." He told me his name was Sparks, a good, harmless fellow, etc. And afterwards, when I did know him, [Dr. Woods] would ask every time we met, "Well! do you hate Sparks yet?" I could not really hate any one in my heart, so I always answered, "He is a good-natured fool, but I will hate him yet." But even now I cannot: my only feeling is intense pity for the man who has dealt us so severe a blow; who made my dear father bow his gray head, and shed such bitter tears.
The moon is rising still higher now, and people are hurrying to the grand Meeting, where the state of the country is to be discussed, and the three young men bow and hurry off, too. Later, at eleven o'clock, Miriam and I are up at Lydia's waiting (until the boat comes) with Miss Comstock who is going away. As usual, I am teasing and romping by turns. Harry suddenly stands in the parlor door, looking very grave, and very quiet. He is holding father's stick in his hand, and says he has come to take us over home. I was laughing still, so I said, "Wait," while I prepared for some last piece of folly, but he smiled for the first time, and throwing his arm around me, said, "Come home, you rogue!" and laughing still, I followed him.
He left us in the hall, saying he must go to Charlie's a moment, but to leave the door open for him. So we went up, and I ran in his room, and lighted his gas for him, as I did every night when we went up together. In a little while I heard him come in and go to his room. I knew nothing then; but next day, going into mother's room, I saw him standing before the glass door of her armoir, looking at a black coat he had on. Involuntarily I cried out, "Oh, don't, Hal!" "Don't what? Isn't it a nice coat?" he asked. "Yes; but it is buttoned up to the throat, and I don't like to see it. It looks—" here I went out as abruptly as I came in; that black coat so tightly buttoned troubled me.
He came to our room after a while and said he was going ten miles out in the country for a few days. I begged him to stay, and reproached him for going away so soon after he had come home. But he said he must, adding, "Perhaps I am tired of you, and want to see something new. I'll be so glad to get back in a few days." Father said yes, he must go, so he went without any further explanation.
Walking out to Mr. Davidson's that evening, Lydia and I sat down on a fallen rail beyond the Catholic graveyard, and there she told me what had happened. The night before, sitting on Dr. Woods's gallery, with six or eight others who had been singing, Hal called on Mr. Henderson to sing. He complied by singing one that was not nice. Old Mr. Sparks got up to leave, and Hal said, "I hope we are not disturbing you?" No, he said he was tired and would go home. As soon as he was gone, his son, who I have since heard was under the influence of opium,—though Hal always maintained that he was not,—said it was a shame to disturb his poor old father. Hal answered, "You heard what he said. We did not disturb him." "You are a liar!" the other cried. That is a name that none of our family has either merited or borne with; and quick as thought Hal sprang to his feet and struck him across the face with the walking-stick he held. The blow sent the lower part across the balcony in the street, as the spring was loosened by it, while the upper part, to which was fastened the sword—for it was father's sword-cane—remained in his hand. I doubt that he ever before knew the cane could come apart. Certainly he did not perceive it, until the other whined piteously he was taking advantage over an unarmed man; when, cursing him, he (Harry) threw it after the body of the cane, and said, "Now we are equal." The other's answer was to draw a knife, and was about to plunge it into Harry, who disdained to flinch, when Mr. Henderson threw himself on Mr. Sparks and dragged him off.
 Note by Mrs. Dawson in 1896: "Annie Laurie!"
 Note by Mrs. Dawson: Bowie knife.
It was a little while after that Harry came for us. The consequence of this was a challenge from Mr. Sparks in the morning, which was accepted by Harry's friends, who appointed Monday, at Greenwell, to meet. Lydia did not tell me that; she said she thought it had been settled peaceably, so I was not uneasy, and only wanted Harry to come back from Seth David's soon. The possibility of his fighting never occurred to me.
Sunday evening I was on the front steps with Miriam and Dr. Woods, talking of Harry and wishing he would come. "You want Harry!" the doctor repeated after me; "you had better learn to live without him." "What an absurdity!" I said and wondered when he would come. Still later, Miriam, father, and I were in the parlor, when there was a tap on the window, just above his head, and I saw a hand, for an instant. Father hurried out, and we heard several voices; and then steps going away. Mother came down and asked who had been there, but we only knew that, whoever it was, father had afterward gone with them. Mother went on: "There is something going on, which is to be kept from me. Every one seems to know it, and to make a secret of it." I said nothing, for I had promised Lydia not to tell; and even I did not know all.
When father came back, Harry was with him. I saw by his nod, and "How are you, girls," how he wished us to take it, so neither moved from our chairs, while he sat down on the sofa and asked what kind of a sermon we had had. And we talked of anything except what we were thinking of, until we went upstairs.
Hal afterwards told me that he had been arrested up there, and father went with him to give bail; and that the sheriff had gone out to Greenwell after Mr. Sparks. He told me all about it next morning, saying he was glad it was all over, but sorry for Mr. Sparks; for he had a blow on his face which nothing would wash out. I said, "Hal, if you had fought, much as I love you, I would rather he had killed you than that you should have killed him. I love you too much to be willing to see blood on your hands." First he laughed at me, then said, "If I had killed him, I never would have seen you again."
We thought it was all over; so did he. But Baton Rouge was wild about it. Mr. Sparks was the bully of the town, having nothing else to do, and whenever he got angry or drunk, would knock down anybody he chose. That same night, before Harry met him, he had slapped one man, and had dragged another over the room by the hair; but these coolly went home, and waited for a voluntary apology. So the mothers, sisters, and intimate friends of those who had patiently borne the blows, and being "woolled," vaunted the example of their heroes, and asked why Dr. Morgan had not acted as they had done, and waited for an apology? Then there was another faction who cried only blood could wash out that blow and make a gentleman of Mr. Sparks again,—as though he ever had been one! So knots assembled at street corners, and discussed it, until father said to us that Monday night, "These people are so excited, and are trying so hard to make this affair worse, that I would not be surprised if they shot each other down in the street," speaking of Harry and the other.
Hal seemed to think of it no more, though, and Wednesday said he must go to the city and consult Brother as to where he should permanently establish himself. I was sorry; yet glad that he would then get away from all this trouble. I don't know that I ever saw him in higher spirits than he was that day and evening, the 24th. Lilly and Charlie were here until late, and he laughed and talked so incessantly that we called him crazy. We might have guessed by his extravagant spirits that he was trying to conceal something from us....
He went away before daybreak, and I never saw him again.
April 26th, 1862.
There is no word in the English language that can express the state in which we are, and have been, these last three days. Day before yesterday, news came early in the morning of three of the enemy's boats passing the Forts, and then the excitement began. It increased rapidly on hearing of the sinking of eight of our gunboats in the engagement, the capture of the Forts, and last night, of the burning of the wharves and cotton in the city while the Yankees were taking possession. To-day, the excitement has reached the point of delirium. I believe I am one of the most self-possessed in my small circle; and yet I feel such a craving for news of Miriam, and mother, and Jimmy, who are in the city, that I suppose I am as wild as the rest. It is nonsense to tell me I am cool, with all these patriotic and enthusiastic sentiments. Nothing can be positively ascertained, save that our gunboats are sunk, and theirs are coming up to the city. Everything else has been contradicted until we really do not know whether the city has been taken or not. We only know we had best be prepared for anything. So day before yesterday, Lilly and I sewed up our jewelry, which may be of use if we have to fly. I vow I will not move one step, unless carried away. Come what will, here I remain.
We went this morning to see the cotton burning—a sight never before witnessed, and probably never again to be seen. Wagons, drays,—everything that can be driven or rolled,—were loaded with the bales and taken a few squares back to burn on the commons. Negroes were running around, cutting them open, piling them up, and setting them afire. All were as busy as though their salvation depended on disappointing the Yankees. Later, Charlie sent for us to come to the river and see him fire a flatboat loaded with the precious material for which the Yankees are risking their bodies and souls. Up and down the levee, as far as we could see, negroes were rolling it down to the brink of the river where they would set them afire and push the bales in to float burning down the tide. Each sent up its wreath of smoke and looked like a tiny steamer puffing away. Only I doubt that from the source to the mouth of the river there are as many boats afloat on the Mississippi. The flatboat was piled with as many bales as it could hold without sinking. Most of them were cut open, while negroes staved in the heads of barrels of alcohol, whiskey, etc., and dashed bucketsful over the cotton. Others built up little chimneys of pine every few feet, lined with pine knots and loose cotton, to burn more quickly. There, piled the length of the whole levee, or burning in the river, lay the work of thousands of negroes for more than a year past. It had come from every side. Men stood by who owned the cotton that was burning or waiting to burn. They either helped, or looked on cheerfully. Charlie owned but sixteen bales—a matter of some fifteen hundred dollars; but he was the head man of the whole affair, and burned his own, as well as the property of others. A single barrel of whiskey that was thrown on the cotton, cost the man who gave it one hundred and twenty-five dollars. (It shows what a nation in earnest is capable of doing.) Only two men got on the flatboat with Charlie when it was ready. It was towed to the middle of the river, set afire in every place, and then they jumped into a little skiff fastened in front, and rowed to land. The cotton floated down the Mississippi one sheet of living flame, even in the sunlight. It would have been grand at night. But then we will have fun watching it this evening anyway; for they cannot get through to-day, though no time is to be lost. Hundreds of bales remained untouched. An incredible amount of property has been destroyed to-day; but no one begrudges it. Every grog-shop has been emptied, and gutters and pavements are floating with liquors of all kinds. So that if the Yankees are fond of strong drink, they will fare ill.
Yesterday, Mr. Hutchinson and a Dr. Moffat called to ask for me, with a message about Jimmy. I was absent, but they saw Lilly. Jimmy, they said, was safe. Though sick in bed, he had sprung up and had rushed to the wharf at the first tap of the alarm bell in New Orleans. But as nothing could be done, he would probably be with us to-day, bringing mother and Miriam. I have neither heard nor seen more. The McRae, they said, went to the bottom with the others. They did not know whether any one aboard had escaped. God be praised that Jimmy was not on her then! The new boat to which he was appointed is not yet finished. So he is saved! I am distressed about Captain Huger, and could not refrain from crying, he was so good to Jimmy. But I remembered Miss Cammack might think it rather tender and obtrusive, so I dried my eyes and began to hope he had escaped. Oh! how glad I should be to know he has suffered no harm. Mr. Hutchinson was on his way above, going to join others where the final battle is to be fought on the Mississippi. He had not even time to sit down; so I was doubly grateful to him for his kindness. I wish I could have thanked him for being so considerate of me in my distress now. In her agitation, Lilly gave him a letter I had been writing to George when I was called away; and begged him to address it and mail it at Vicksburg, or somewhere; for no mail will leave here for Norfolk for a long while to come. The odd part is, that he does not know George. But he said he would gladly take charge of it and remember the address, which Lilly told him was Richmond. Well! if the Yankees get it they will take it for an insane scrawl. I wanted to calm his anxiety about us, though I was so wildly excited that I could only say, "Don't mind us! We are safe. But fight, George! Fight for us!" The repetition was ludicrous. I meant so much, too! I only wanted him to understand he could best defend us there. Ah! Mr. Yankee! if you had but your brothers in this world, and their lives hanging by a thread, you too might write wild letters! And if you want to know what an excited girl can do, just call and let me show you the use of a small seven-shooter and a large carving-knife which vibrate between my belt and my pocket, always ready for emergencies.
What a day! Last night came a dispatch that New Orleans was under British protection, and could not be bombarded; consequently, the enemy's gunboats would probably be here this morning, such few as had succeeded in passing the Forts; from nine to fifteen, it was said. And the Forts, they said, had not surrendered. I went to church; but I grew very anxious before it was over, feeling that I was needed at home. When I returned, I found Lilly wild with excitement, picking up hastily whatever came to hand, preparing for instant flight, she knew not where. The Yankees were in sight; the town was to be burned; we were to run to the woods, etc. If the house had to be burned, I had to make up my mind to run, too. So my treasure-bag tied around my waist as a bustle, a sack with a few necessary articles hanging on my arm, some few quite unnecessary ones, too, as I had not the heart to leave the old and new prayer books father had given me, and Miriam's, too;—pistol and carving-knife ready, I stood awaiting the exodus. I heaped on the bed the treasures I wanted to burn, matches lying ready to fire the whole at the last minute. I may here say that, when all was over, I found I had omitted many things from the holocaust. This very diary was not included. It would have afforded vast amusement to the Yankees. There may yet be occasion to burn them, and the house also. People fortunately changed their minds about the auto-da-fe just then; and the Yankees have not yet arrived, at sundown. So, when the excitement calmed down, poor Lilly tumbled in bed in a high fever in consequence of terror and exertion.
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I was right in that prophecy. For this was not the Will Pinckney I saw last. So woebegone! so subdued, careworn, and sad! No trace of his once merry self. He is good-looking, which he never was before. But I would rather never have seen him than have found him so changed. I was talking to a ghost. His was a sad story. He had held one bank of the river until forced to retreat with his men, as their cartridges were exhausted, and General Lovell omitted sending more. They had to pass through swamps, wading seven and a half miles, up to their waists in water. He gained the edge of the swamp, saw they were over the worst, and fell senseless. Two of his men brought him milk, and "woke him up," he said. His men fell from exhaustion, were lost, and died in the swamp; so that out of five hundred, but one hundred escaped. This he told quietly and sadly, looking so heart-broken that it was piteous to see such pain. He showed me his feet, with thick clumsy shoes which an old negro had pulled off to give him; for his were lost in the swamp, and he came out bare-footed. They reached the Lafourche River, I believe, seized a boat, and arrived here last night. His wife and child were aboard. Heaven knows how they got there! The men he sent on to Port Hudson, while he stopped here. I wanted to bring his wife to stay with us; but he said she could not bear to be seen, as she had run off just as she had happened to be at that moment. In half an hour he would be off to take her to his old home in a carriage. There he would rejoin his men, on the railroad, and march from Clinton to the Jackson road, and so on to Corinth. A long journey for men so disheartened! But they will conquer in the end. Beauregard's army will increase rapidly at this rate. The whole country is aroused, and every man who owns a gun, and many who do not, are on the road to Corinth. We will conquer yet.
Vile old Yankee boats, four in number, passed up this morning without stopping. After all our excitement, this "silent contempt" annihilated me! What in the world do they mean? The river was covered with burning cotton; perhaps they want to see where it came from.
Our lawful (?) owners have at last arrived. About sunset, day before yesterday, the Iroquois anchored here, and a graceful young Federal stepped ashore, carrying a Yankee flag over his shoulder, and asked the way to the Mayor's office. I like the style! If we girls of Baton Rouge had been at the landing, instead of the men, that Yankee would never have insulted us by flying his flag in our faces! We would have opposed his landing except under a flag of truce; but the men let him alone, and he even found a poor Dutchman willing to show him the road!
He did not accomplish much; said a formal demand would be made next day, and asked if it was safe for the men to come ashore and buy a few necessaries, when he was assured the air of Baton Rouge was very unhealthy for Yankee soldiers at night. He promised very magnanimously not to shell us out if we did not molest him; but I notice none of them dare set their feet on terra firma, except the officer who has now called three times on the Mayor, and who is said to tremble visibly as he walks the streets.
Last evening came the demand: the town must be surrendered immediately; the Federal flag must be raised; they would grant us the same terms they granted New Orleans. Jolly terms those were! The answer was worthy of a Southerner. It was, "The town was defenseless; if we had cannon, there were not men enough to resist; but if forty vessels lay at the landing,—it was intimated we were in their power, and more ships coming up,—we would not surrender; if they wanted, they might come and take us; if they wished the Federal flag hoisted over the Arsenal, they might put it up for themselves, the town had no control over Government property." Glorious! What a pity they did not shell the town! But they are taking us at our word, and this morning they are landing at the Garrison.
"All devices, signs, and flags of the Confederacy shall be suppressed." So says Picayune Butler. Good. I devote all my red, white, and blue silk to the manufacture of Confederate flags. As soon as one is confiscated, I make another, until my ribbon is exhausted, when I will sport a duster emblazoned in high colors, "Hurra! for the Bonny blue flag!" Henceforth, I wear one pinned to my bosom—not a duster, but a little flag; the man who says take it off will have to pull it off for himself; the man who dares attempt it—well! a pistol in my pocket fills up the gap. I am capable, too.
This is a dreadful war, to make even the hearts of women so bitter! I hardly know myself these last few weeks. I, who have such a horror of bloodshed, consider even killing in self-defense murder, who cannot wish them the slightest evil, whose only prayer is to have them sent back in peace to their own country,—I talk of killing them! For what else do I wear a pistol and carving-knife? I am afraid I will try them on the first one who says an insolent word to me. Yes, and repent for it ever after in sack-cloth and ashes. O! if I was only a man! Then I could don the breeches, and slay them with a will! If some few Southern women were in the ranks, they could set the men an example they would not blush to follow. Pshaw! there are no women here! We are all men!
Last night about one o'clock I was wakened and told that mother and Miriam had come. Oh, how glad I was! I tumbled out of bed half asleep and hugged Miriam in a dream, but waked up when I got to mother. They came up under a flag of truce, on a boat going up for provisions, which, by the way, was brought to by half a dozen Yankee ships in succession, with a threat to send a broadside into her if she did not stop—the wretches knew it must be under a flag of truce; no boats leave, except by special order to procure provisions.
What tales they had to tell! They were on the wharf, and saw the ships sail up the river, saw the broadside fired into Will Pinckney's regiment, the boats we fired, our gunboats, floating down to meet them all wrapped in flames; twenty thousand bales of cotton blazing in a single pile; molasses and sugar thrown over everything. They stood there opposite to where one of the ships landed, expecting a broadside, and resolute not to be shot in the back. I wish I had been there! And Captain Huger is not dead! They had hopes of his life for the first time day before yesterday. Miriam saw the ball that had just been extracted. He will probably be lame for the rest of his life. It will be a glory to him. For even the Federal officers say that never did they see so gallant a little ship, or one that fought so desperately as the McRae. Men and officers fought like devils. Think of all those great leviathans after the poor little "Widow Mickey"! One came tearing down on her sideways, while the Brooklyn fired on her from the other side, when brave Captain Warley put the nose of the Manassas under the first, and tilted her over so that the whole broadside passed over, instead of through, the McRae, who spit back its poor little fire at both. And after all was lost, she carried the wounded and the prisoners to New Orleans, and was scuttled by her own men in port. Glorious Captain Huger! And think of his sending word to Jimmy, suffering as he was, that "his little brass cannon was game to the last." Oh! I hope he will recover. Brave, dare-devil Captain Warley is prisoner, and on the way to Fort Warren, that home of all brave, patriotic men. We'll have him out. And my poor little Jimmy! If I have not spoken of him, it is not because I have lost sight of him for a moment. The day the McRae went down, he arose from his bed, ill as he was, and determined to rejoin her, as his own boat, the Mississippi, was not ready. When he reached the St. Charles, he fell so very ill that he had to be carried back to Brother's. Only his desperate illness saved him from being among the killed or wounded on that gallant little ship. A few days after, he learned the fate of the ship, and was told that Captain Huger was dead. No wonder he should cry so bitterly! For Captain Huger was as tender and as kind to him as his own dear father. God bless him for it! The enemy's ships were sailing up; so he threw a few articles in a carpet-bag and started off for Richmond, Corinth, anywhere, to fight. Sick, weak, hardly able to stand, he went off, two weeks ago yesterday. We know not where, and we have never heard from him since. Whether he succumbed to that jaundice and the rest, and lies dead or dying on the road, God only knows. We can only wait and pray God to send dear little Jimmy home in safety.
And this is WAR! Heaven save me from like scenes and experiences again. I was wild with excitement last night when Miriam described how the soldiers, marching to the depot, waved their hats to the crowds of women and children, shouting, "God bless you, ladies! We will fight for you!" and they, waving their handkerchiefs, sobbed with one voice, "God bless you, Soldiers! Fight for us!"
We, too, have been having our fun. Early in the evening, four more gunboats sailed up here. We saw them from the corner, three squares off, crowded with men even up in the riggings. The American flag was flying from every peak. It was received in profound silence, by the hundreds gathered on the banks. I could hardly refrain from a groan. Much as I once loved that flag, I hate it now! I came back and made myself a Confederate flag about five inches long, slipped the staff in my belt, pinned the flag to my shoulder, and walked downtown, to the consternation of women and children, who expected something awful to follow. An old negro cried, "My young missus got her flag flyin', anyhow!" Nettie made one and hid it in the folds of her dress. But we were the only two who ventured. We went to the State House terrace, and took a good look at the Brooklyn which was crowded with people who took a good look at us, likewise. The picket stationed at the Garrison took alarm at half a dozen men on horseback and ran, saying that the citizens were attacking. The kind officers aboard the ship sent us word that if they were molested, the town would be shelled. Let them! Butchers! Does it take thirty thousand men and millions of dollars to murder defenseless women and children? O the great nation! Bravo!
I—I am disgusted with myself. No unusual thing, but I am peculiarly disgusted this time. Last evening, I went to Mrs. Brunot's, without an idea of going beyond, with my flag flying again. They were all going to the State House, so I went with them; to my great distress, some fifteen or twenty Federal officers were standing on the first terrace, stared at like wild beasts by the curious crowd. I had not expected to meet them, and felt a painful conviction that I was unnecessarily attracting attention, by an unladylike display of defiance, from the crowd gathered there. But what was I to do? I felt humiliated, conspicuous, everything that is painful and disagreeable; but—strike my colors in the face of the enemy? Never! Nettie and Sophie had them, too, but that was no consolation for the shame I suffered by such a display so totally distasteful to me. How I wished myself away, and chafed at my folly, and hated myself for being there, and every one for seeing me. I hope it will be a lesson to me always to remember a lady can gain nothing by such display.
I was not ashamed of the flag of my country,—I proved that by never attempting to remove it in spite of my mortification,—but I was ashamed of my position; for these are evidently gentlemen, not the Billy Wilson's crew we were threatened with. Fine, noble-looking men they were, showing refinement and gentlemanly bearing in every motion. One cannot help but admire such foes! They set us an example worthy of our imitation, and one we would be benefited by following. They come as visitors without either pretensions to superiority, or the insolence of conquerors; they walk quietly their way, offering no annoyance to the citizens, though they themselves are stared at most unmercifully, and pursued by crowds of ragged little boys, while even men gape at them with open mouths. They prove themselves gentlemen, while many of our citizens have proved themselves boors, and I admire them for their conduct. With a conviction that I had allowed myself to be influenced by bigoted, narrow-minded people, in believing them to be unworthy of respect or regard, I came home wonderfully changed in all my newly acquired sentiments, resolved never more to wound their feelings, who were so careful of ours, by such unnecessary display. And I hung my flag on the parlor mantel, there to wave, if it will, in the shades of private life; but to make a show, make me conspicuous and ill at ease, as I was yesterday,—never again!
There was a dozen officers in church this morning, and the psalms for the 11th day seemed so singularly appropriate to the feelings of the people, that I felt uncomfortable for them. They answered with us, though.
I am beginning to believe that we are even of more importance in Baton Rouge than we thought we were. It is laughable to hear the things a certain set of people, who know they can't visit us, say about the whole family.... When father was alive, they dared not talk about us aloud, beyond calling us the "Proud Morgans" and the "Aristocracy of Baton Rouge".... But now father is gone, the people imagine we are public property, to be criticized, vilified, and abused to their hearts' content....
And now, because they find absurdities don't succeed, they try improbabilities. So yesterday the town was in a ferment because it was reported the Federal officers had called on the Miss Morgans, and all the gentlemen were anxious to hear how they had been received. One had the grace to say, "If they did, they received the best lesson there that they could get in town; those young ladies would meet them with the true Southern spirit." The rest did not know; they would like to find out.
I suppose the story originated from the fact that we were unwilling to blackguard—yes, that is the word—the Federal officers here, and would not agree with many of our friends in saying they were liars, thieves, murderers, scoundrels, the scum of the earth, etc. Such epithets are unworthy of ladies, I say, and do harm, rather than advance our cause. Let them be what they will, it shall not make me less the lady; I say it is unworthy of anything except low newspaper war, such abuse, and I will not join in.
I have a brother-in-law in the Federal army whom I love and respect as much as any one in the world, and shall not readily agree that his being a Northerner would give him an irresistible desire to pick my pockets, and take from him all power of telling the truth. No! There are few men I admire more than Major Drum, and I honor him for his independence in doing what he believes right. Let us have liberty of speech and action in our land, I say, but not gross abuse and calumny. Shall I acknowledge that the people we so recently called our brothers are unworthy of consideration, and are liars, cowards, dogs? Not I! If they conquer us, I acknowledge them as a superior race; I will not say that we were conquered by cowards, for where would that place us? It will take a brave people to gain us, and that the Northerners undoubtedly are. I would scorn to have an inferior foe; I fight only my equals. These women may acknowledge that cowards have won battles in which their brothers were engaged, but I, I will ever say mine fought against brave men, and won the day. Which is most honorable?
I was never a Secessionist, for I quietly adopted father's views on political subjects without meddling with them. But even father went over with his State, and when so many outrages were committed by the fanatical leaders of the North, though he regretted the Union, said, "Fight to the death for our liberty." I say so, too. I want to fight until we win the cause so many have died for. I don't believe in Secession, but I do in Liberty. I want the South to conquer, dictate its own terms, and go back to the Union, for I believe that, apart, inevitable ruin awaits both. It is a rope of sand, this Confederacy, founded on the doctrine of Secession, and will not last many years—not five. The North Cannot subdue us. We are too determined to be free. They have no right to confiscate our property to pay debts they themselves have incurred. Death as a nation, rather than Union on such terms. We will have our rights secured on so firm a basis that it can never be shaken. If by power of overwhelming numbers they conquer us, it will be a barren victory over a desolate land. We, the natives of this loved soil, will be beggars in a foreign land; we will not submit to despotism under the garb of Liberty. The North will find herself burdened with an unparalleled debt, with nothing to show for it except deserted towns, burning homes, a standing army which will govern with no small caprice, and an impoverished land.
If that be treason, make the best of it!
One of these days, when peace is restored and we are quietly settled in our allotted corners of this wide world without any particularly exciting event to alarm us; and with the knowledge of what is now the future, and will then be the dead past; seeing that all has been for the best for us in the end; that all has come right in spite of us, we will wonder how we could ever have been foolish enough to await each hour in such breathless anxiety. We will ask ourselves if it was really true that nightly, as we lay down to sleep, we did not dare plan for the morning, feeling that we might be homeless and beggars before the dawn. How unreal it will then seem! We will say it was our wild imagination, perhaps. But how bitterly, horribly true it is now!
Four days ago the Yankees left us, to attack Vicksburg, leaving their flag flying in the Garrison without a man to guard it, and with the understanding that the town would be held responsible for it. It was intended for a trap; and it succeeded. For night before last, it was pulled down and torn to pieces.
Now, unless Will will have the kindness to sink a dozen of their ships up there,—I hear he has command of the lower batteries,—they will be back in a few days, and will execute their threat of shelling the town. If they do, what will become of us? All we expect in the way of earthly property is as yet mere paper, which will be so much trash if the South is ruined, as it consists of debts due father by many planters for professional services rendered, who, of course, will be ruined, too, so all money is gone. That is nothing, we will not be ashamed to earn our bread, so let it go.
But this house is at least a shelter from the weather, all sentiment apart. And our servants, too; how could they manage without us? The Yankees, on the river, and a band of guerrillas in the woods, are equally anxious to precipitate a fight. Between the two fires, what chance for us? It would take only a little while to burn the city over our heads. They say the women and children must be removed, these guerrillas. Where, please? Charlie says we must go to Greenwell. And have this house pillaged? For Butler has decreed that no unoccupied house shall be respected. If we stay through the battle, if the Federals are victorious, we will suffer. For the officers here were reported to have said, "If the people here did not treat them decently, they would know what it was when Billy Wilson's crew arrived. They would give them a lesson!" That select crowd is now in New Orleans. Heaven help us when they reach here! It is in these small cities that the greatest outrages are perpetrated. What are we to do?
A new proclamation from Butler has just come. It seems that the ladies have an ugly way of gathering their skirts when the Federals pass, to avoid any possible contact. Some even turn up their noses. Unladylike, to say the least. But it is, maybe, owing to the odor they have, which is said to be unbearable even at this early season of the year. Butler says, whereas the so-called ladies of New Orleans insult his men and officers, he gives one and all permission to insult any or all who so treat them, then and there, with the assurance that the women will not receive the slightest protection from the Government, and that the men will all be justified. I did not have time to read it, but repeat it as it was told to me by mother, who is in utter despair at the brutality of the thing. These men our brothers? Not mine! Let us hope for the honor of their nation that Butler is not counted among the gentlemen of the land. And so, if any man should fancy he cared to kiss me, he could do so under the pretext that I had pulled my dress from under his feet! That will justify them! And if we decline their visits, they can insult us under the plea of a prior affront. Oh! Gibbes! George! Jimmy! never did we need your protection as sorely as now. And not to know even whether you are alive! When Charlie joins the army, we will be defenseless, indeed. Come to my bosom, O my discarded carving-knife, laid aside under the impression that these men were gentlemen. We will be close friends once more. And if you must have a sheath, perhaps I may find one for you in the heart of the first man who attempts to Butlerize me. I never dreamed of kissing any man save my father and brothers. And why any one should care to kiss any one else, I fail to understand. And I do not propose to learn to make exceptions.
Still no word from the boys. We hear that Norfolk has been evacuated; but no details. George was there. Gibbes is wherever Johnston is, presumably on the Rappahannock; but it is more than six weeks since we have heard from either of them, and all communication is cut off.
I have had such a search for shoes this week that I am disgusted with shopping. I am triumphant now, for after traversing the town in every direction and finding nothing, I finally discovered a pair of boots just made for a little negro to go fishing with, and only an inch and a half too long for me, besides being unbendable; but I seized them with avidity, and the little negro would have been outbid if I had not soon after discovered a pair more seemly, if not more serviceable, which I took without further difficulty. Behold my tender feet cased in crocodile skin, patent-leather tipped, low-quarter boy's shoes, No. 2! "What a fall was there, my country," from my pretty English glove-kid, to sabots made of some animal closely connected with the hippopotamus! A dernier ressort, vraiment! for my choice was that, or cooling my feet on the burning pavement au naturel; I who have such a terror of any one seeing my naked foot! And this is thanks to war and blockade! Not a decent shoe in the whole community! N'importe! "Better days are coming, we'll all"—have shoes—after a while—perhaps! Why did not Mark Tapley leave me a song calculated to keep the spirits up, under depressing circumstances? I need one very much, and have nothing more suggestive than the old Methodist hymn, "Better days are coming, we'll all go right," which I shout so constantly, as our prospects darken, that it begins to sound stale.
The cry is "Ho! for Greenwell!" Very probably this day week will see us there. I don't want to go. If we were at peace, and were to spend a few months of the warmest season out there, none would be more eager and delighted than I: but to leave our comfortable home, and all it contains, for a rough pine cottage seventeen miles away even from this scanty civilization, is sad. It must be! We are hourly expecting two regiments of Yankees to occupy the Garrison, and some fifteen hundred of our men are awaiting them a little way off, so the fight seems inevitable. And we must go, leaving what little has already been spared us to the tender mercies of Northern volunteers, who, from the specimen of plundering they gave us two weeks ago, will hardly leave us even the shelter of our roof. O my dear Home! How can I help but cry at leaving you forever? For if this fight occurs, never again shall I pass the threshold of this house, where we have been so happy and sad, the scene of joyous meetings and mournful partings, the place where we greeted each other with glad shouts after even so short a parting, the place where Harry and father kissed us good-bye and never came back again!
I know what Lavinia has suffered this long year, by what we have suffered these last six weeks. Poor Lavinia, so far away! How easier poverty, if it must come, would be if we could bear it together! I wonder if the real fate of the boys, if we ever hear, can be so dreadful as this suspense? Still no news of them. My poor little Jimmy! And think how desperate Gibbes and George will be when they read Butler's proclamation, and they not able to defend us! Gibbes was in our late victory of Fredericksburg, I know.
In other days, going to Greenwell was the signal for general noise and confusion. All the boys gathered their guns and fishing-tackle, and thousand and one amusements; father sent out provisions; we helped mother pack; Hal and I tumbled over the libraries to lay in a supply of reading material; and all was bustle until the carriage drove to the door at daylight one morning, and swept us off. It is not so gay this time. I wandered around this morning selecting books alone. We can only take what is necessary, the rest being left to the care of the Northern militia in general. I never knew before how many articles were perfectly "indispensable" to me. This or that little token or keepsake, piles of letters I hate to burn, many dresses, etc., I cannot take conveniently, lie around me, and I hardly know which to choose among them, yet half must be sacrificed; I can only take one trunk.
May 30th, GREENWELL.
After all our trials and tribulations, here we are at last, and no limbs lost! How many weeks ago was it since I wrote here? It seems very long after all these events; let me try to recall them.
Wednesday the 28th,—a day to be forever remembered,—as luck would have it, we rose very early, and had breakfast sooner than usual, it would seem for the express design of becoming famished before dinner. I picked up some of my letters and papers and set them where I could find them whenever we were ready to go to Greenwell, burning a pile of trash and leaving a quantity equally worthless, which were of no value even to myself except from association. I was packing up my traveling-desk with all Harry's little articles that were left to me, and other things, and I was saying to myself that my affairs were in such confusion that if obliged to run unexpectedly I would not know what to save, when I heard Lilly's voice downstairs, crying as she ran in—she had been out shopping—"Mr. Castle has killed a Federal officer on a ship, and they are going to shell—" Bang! went a cannon at the word, and that was all our warning.
Mother had just come in, and was lying down, but sprang to her feet and added her screams to the general confusion. Miriam, who had been searching the libraries, ran up to quiet her; Lilly gathered her children, crying hysterically all the time, and ran to the front door with them as they were; Lucy saved the baby, naked as she took her from her bath, only throwing a quilt over her. I bethought me of my "running-bag" which I had used on a former case, and in a moment my few precious articles were secured under my hoops, and with a sunbonnet on, I stood ready for anything.
The firing still continued; they must have fired half a dozen times before we could coax mother off. What awful screams! I had hoped never to hear them again, after Harry died. Charlie had gone to Greenwell before daybreak, to prepare the house, so we four women, with all those children and servants, were left to save ourselves. I did not forget my poor little Jimmy; I caught up his cage and ran down. Just at this moment mother recovered enough to insist on saving father's papers—which was impossible, as she had not an idea of where the important ones were. I heard Miriam plead, argue, insist, command her to run; Lilly shriek, and cry she should go; the children screaming within; women running by without, crying and moaning; but I could not join in. I was going I knew not where; it was impossible to take my bird, for even if I could carry him, he would starve. So I took him out of his cage, kissed his little yellow head, and tossed him up. He gave one feeble little chirp as if to ascertain where to go, and then for the first and last time I cried, laying my head against the gate-post, and with my eyes too dim to see him. Oh, how it hurt me to lose my little bird, one Jimmy had given me, too!
But the next minute we were all off, in safety. A square from home, I discovered that boy shoes were not the most comfortable things to run in, so I ran back, in spite of cannonading, entreaties, etc., to get another pair. I got home, found an old pair that were by no means respectable, which I seized without hesitation; and being perfectly at ease, thought it would be so nice to save at least Miriam's and my tooth-brushes, so slipped them in my corsets. These in, of course we must have a comb—that was added—then how could we stand the sun without starch to cool our faces? This included the powder-bag; then I must save that beautiful lace collar; and my hair was tumbling down, so in went the tucking-comb and hair-pins with the rest; until, if there had been any one to speculate, they would have wondered a long while at the singular appearance of a girl who is considered as very slight, usually. By this time, Miriam, alarmed for me, returned to find me, though urged by Dr. Castleton not to risk her life by attempting it, and we started off together.
We had hardly gone a square when we decided to return a second time, and get at least a few articles for the children and ourselves, who had nothing except what we happened to have on when the shelling commenced. She picked up any little things and threw them to me, while I filled a pillow-case jerked from the bed, and placed my powder and brushes in it with the rest. Before we could leave, mother, alarmed for us both, came to find us, with Tiche. All this time they had been shelling, but there was quite a lull when she got there, and she commenced picking up father's papers, vowing all the time she would not leave. Every argument we could use was of no avail, and we were desperate as to what course to pursue, when the shelling recommenced in a few minutes. Then mother recommenced her screaming and was ready to fly anywhere; and holding her box of papers, with a faint idea of saving something, she picked up two dirty underskirts and an old cloak.
 Mrs. Morgan's negro maid, Catiche.
By dint of Miriam's vehement appeals, aided by a great deal of pulling, we got her down to the back door. We had given our pillow-case to Tiche, who added another bundle and all our silver to it, and had already departed.
As we stood in the door, four or five shells sailed over our heads at the same time, seeming to make a perfect corkscrew of the air,—for it sounded as though it went in circles. Miriam cried, "Never mind the door!" mother screamed anew, and I stayed behind to lock the door, with this new music in my ears. We reached the back gate, that was on the street, when another shell passed us, and Miriam jumped behind the fence for protection. We had only gone half a square when Dr. Castleton begged us to take another street, as they were firing up that one. We took his advice, but found our new street worse than the old, for the shells seemed to whistle their strange songs with redoubled vigor. The height of my ambition was now attained. I had heard Jimmy laugh about the singular sensation produced by the rifled balls spinning around one's head; and here I heard the same peculiar sound, ran the same risk, and was equal to the rest of the boys, for was I not in the midst of flying shells, in the middle of a bombardment? I think I was rather proud of it.
We were alone on the road,—all had run away before,—so I thought it was for our especial entertainment, this little affair. I cannot remember how long it lasted; I am positive that the clock struck ten before I left home, but I had been up so long, I know not what time it began, though I am told it was between eight and nine. We passed the graveyard, we did not even stop, and about a mile and a half from home, when mother was perfectly exhausted with fatigue and unable to proceed farther, we met a gentleman in a buggy who kindly took charge of her and our bundles. We could have walked miles beyond, then, for as soon as she was safe we felt as though a load had been removed from our shoulders; and after exhorting her not to be uneasy about us, and reminding her we had a pistol and a dagger,—I had secured a "for true" one the day before, fortunately,—she drove off, and we trudged on alone, the only people in sight on foot, though occasionally carriages and buggies would pass, going towards town. One party of gentlemen put their heads out and one said, "There are Judge Morgan's daughters sitting by the road!"—but I observed he did not offer them the slightest assistance. However, others were very kind. One I never heard of had volunteered to go for us, and bring us to mother, when she was uneasy about our staying so long, when we went home to get clothes. We heard him ring and knock, but, thinking it must be next door, paid no attention, so he went back and mother came herself.
We were two miles away when we sat down by the road to rest, and have a laugh. Here were two women married, and able to take care of themselves, flying for their lives and leaving two lorn girls alone on the road, to protect each other! To be sure, neither could help us, and one was not able to walk, and the other had helpless children to save; but it was so funny when we talked about it, and thought how sorry both would be when they regained their reason! While we were yet resting, we saw a cart coming, and, giving up all idea of our walking to Greenwell, called the people to stop. To our great delight, it proved to be a cart loaded with Mrs. Brunot's affairs, driven by two of her negroes, who kindly took us up with them, on the top of their luggage; and we drove off in state, as much pleased at riding in that novel place as though we were accustomed to ride in wheelbarrows. Miriam was in a hollow between a flour barrel and a mattress; and I at the end, astride, I am afraid, of a tremendous bundle, for my face was down the road and each foot resting very near the sides of the cart. I tried to make a better arrangement, though, after a while. These servants were good enough to lend us their umbrella, without which I am afraid we would have suffered severely, for the day was intensely warm.
Three miles from town we began to overtake the fugitives. Hundreds of women and children were walking along, some bareheaded, and in all costumes. Little girls of twelve and fourteen were wandering on alone. I called to one I knew, and asked where her mother was; she didn't know; she would walk on until she found out. It seems her mother lost a nursing baby, too, which was not found until ten that night. White and black were all mixed together, and were as confidential as though related. All called to us and asked where we were going, and many we knew laughed at us for riding on a cart; but as they had walked only five miles, I imagined they would like even these poor accommodations if they were in their reach.
The negroes deserve the greatest praise for their conduct. Hundreds were walking with babies or bundles; ask them what they had saved, it was invariably, "My mistress's clothes, or silver, or baby." Ask what they had for themselves, it was, "Bless your heart, honey, I was glad to get away with mistress's things; I didn't think 'bout mine."
It was a heart-rending scene. Women searching for their babies along the road, where they had been lost; others sitting in the dust crying and wringing their hands; for by this time we had not an idea but what Baton Rouge was either in ashes, or being plundered, and we had saved nothing. I had one dress, Miriam two, but Tiche had them, and we had lost her before we left home.
Presently we came on a guerrilla camp. Men and horses were resting on each side of the road, some sick, some moving about carrying water to the women and children, and all looking like a monster barbecue, for as far as the eye could see through the woods, was the same repetition of men and horses. They would ask for the news, and one, drunk with excitement or whiskey, informed us that it was our own fault if we had saved nothing, the people must have been —— fools not to have known trouble would come before long, and that it was the fault of the men, who were aware of it, that the women were thus forced to fly. In vain we pleaded that there was no warning, no means of foreseeing this; he cried, "You are ruined; so am I; and my brothers, too! And by —— there is nothing left but to die now, and I'll die!" "Good!" I said. "But die fighting for us!" He waved his hand, black with powder, and shouted, "That I will!" after us. That was the only swearing guerrilla we met; the others seemed to have too much respect for us to talk loud.
Lucy had met us before this; early in the action, Lilly had sent her back to get some baby-clothes, but a shell exploding within a few feet of her, she took alarm, and ran up another road, for three miles, when she cut across the plantations and regained the Greenwell route. It is fortunate that, without consultation, the thought of running here should have seized us all.
I was interrupted so frequently yesterday that I know not how I continued to write so much. First, I was sent for, to go to Mrs. Brunot, who had just heard of her son's death, and who was alone with Dena; and some hours after, I was sent for, to see Fanny, now Mrs. Trezevant, who had just come with her husband to bring us news of George. A Mrs. Montgomery, who saw him every day at Norfolk, said Jimmy was with him, and though very sick at first, was now in good health. The first news in all that long time! When the city was evacuated, George went with his regiment seven miles from Richmond, Jimmy to the city itself, as aide to Com. Hollins. This lady brought George's opal ring and diamond pin. Howell and Mr. Badger, who had just joined the guerrillas as independents, spent the day with me. We were all in such confusion that I felt ashamed: every one as dirty as possible; I had on the same dress I had escaped in, which, though then perfectly clean, was now rather—dirty. But they knew what a time we had had.
To return to my journal.
Lucy met mother some long way ahead of us, whose conscience was already reproaching her for leaving us, and in answer to her "What has become of my poor girls?" ran down the road to find us, for Lucy thinks the world can't keep on moving without us. When she met us, she walked by the cart, and it was with difficulty we persuaded her to ride a mile; she said she felt "used" to walking now. About five miles from home, we overtook mother. The gentleman had been obliged to go for his wife, so Mary gave her her seat on the cart, and walked with Lucy three miles beyond, where we heard that Lilly and the children had arrived in a cart, early in the day. All the talk by the roadside was of burning homes, houses knocked to pieces by balls, famine, murder, desolation; so I comforted myself singing, "Better days are coming" and "I hope to die shouting, the Lord will provide"; while Lucy toiled through the sun and dust, and answered with a chorus of "I'm a-runnin', a-runnin' up to glo-ry!"
It was three o'clock when we reached Mr. David's and found Lilly. How warm and tired we were! A hasty meal, which tasted like a feast after our fatigue, gave us fresh strength, and Lilly and Miriam got in an old cart with the children to drive out here, leaving me with mother and Dellie to follow next day. About sunset, Charlie came flying down the road, on his way to town. I decided to go, and after an obstinate debate with mother, in which I am afraid I showed more determination than amiability, I wrung a reluctant consent from her, and, promising not to enter if it was being fired or plundered, drove off in triumph. It was a desperate enterprise for a young girl, to enter a town full of soldiers on such an expedition at night; but I knew Charlie could take care of me, and if he was killed I could take care of myself; so I went.
It was long after nine when we got there, and my first act was to look around the deserted house. What a scene of confusion! armoirs spread open, with clothes tumbled in every direction, inside and out; ribbons, laces on floors; chairs overturned; my desk wide open covered with letters, trinkets, etc.; bureau drawers half out, the bed filled with odds and ends of everything. I no longer recognized my little room. On the bolster was a little box, at the sight of which I burst out laughing. Five minutes before the alarm, Miriam had been selecting those articles she meant to take to Greenwell, and, holding up her box, said, "If we were forced to run for our lives without a moment's warning, I'd risk my life to save this, rather than leave it!" Yet here lay the box, and she was safe at Greenwell!