Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Diary of Judith W. McGuire: Richmond, Virginia, Saturday, February 22, 1862

To-day I had hoped to see our President inaugurated, but the rain falls in torrents, and I cannot go. So many persons are disappointed, but we are comforted by knowing that the inauguration will take place, and that the reins of our government will continue to be in strong hands. His term of six years must be eventful, and to him, and all others, so full of anxiety! What may we not experience during those six years?  Oh, that all hearts may this day be raised to Almighty God for his guidance! Has there been a day since the Fourth of July, 1776, so full of interest, so fraught with danger, so encompassed by anxiety, so sorrowful, and yet so hopeful, as this 22d of February, 1862?  Our wrongs then were great, and our enemy powerful, but neither can the one nor the other compare with all that we have endured from the oppression, and must meet in the gigantic efforts of the Federal Government. Our people are depressed by our recent disasters, but our soldiers are encouraged by the bravery and endurance of the troops at Donelson. It fell, but not until human nature yielded from exhaustion. The Greeks were overcome at Thermopylae, but were the Persians encouraged by their success? Did they still cherish contempt for their weak foe? And will the conquerors of Donelson meet our little army again with the same self-confidence? Has not our Spartan band inspired them with great respect for their valour, to say nothing of awe?

Our neighbour in the next room had two sons in that dreadful fight. Do they survive? Poor old lady!  She can hear nothing from them; the telegraphic wires in Tennessee are cut, and mail communication very uncertain. It is so sad to see the mother and sister quietly pursuing their avocations, not knowing, the former says, whether she is not the second time widowed; for on those sons depend not only her comfort, but her means of subsistence, and that fair young girl, always accustomed to perfect ease, is now, with her old mother, boarding — confined to one room, using her taste and ingenuity, making and altering bonnets for her many acquaintances, that her mother may be supplied with the little luxuries to which she has always been accustomed, and which, her child says, “mother must have.”  “Our property,” she says, “is not available, and, of course, ‘the boys’ had to give up their business to go into the army.”

SOURCE: McGuire, Judith W., Diary of a Southern Refugee, During the War, p. 94-5

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