Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Diary of Mary Boykin Chesnut, December 25, 1863

Yesterday dined with the Prestons. Wore one of my handsomest Paris dresses (from Paris before the war). Three magnificent Kentucky generals were present, with Senator Orr from South Carolina, and Mr. Miles. General Buckner repeated a speech of Hood's to him to show how friendly they were. “I prefer a ride with you to the company of any woman in the world,” Buckner had answered. “I prefer your company to that of any man, certainly,” was Hood's reply. This became the standing joke of the dinner; it flashed up in every form. Poor Sam got out of it so badly, if he got out of it at all. General Buckner said patronizingly, “Lame excuses, all. Hood never gets out of any scrape — that is, unless he can fight out.” Others dropped in after dinner; some without arms, some without legs; von Borcke, who can not speak because of a wound in his throat. Isabella said: “We have all kinds now, but a blind one.” Poor fellows, they laugh at wounds. “And they yet can show many a scar.”

We had for dinner oyster soup, besides roast mutton, ham, boned turkey, wild duck, partridge, plum pudding, sauterne, burgundy, sherry, and Madeira. There is life in the old land yet!

At my house to-day after dinner, and while Alex Haskell and my husband sat over the wine, Hood gave me an account of his discomfiture last night. He said he could not sleep after it; it was the hardest battle he had ever fought in his life, “and I was routed, as it were; she told me there was no hope; that ends it. You know at Petersburg on my way to the Western army she half-promised me to think of it.  She would not say ‘Yes,’ but she did not say ‘No’ – that is, not exactly.  At any rate, I went off saying, ‘I am engaged to you,’ and she said, ‘I am not engaged to you.’ After I was so fearfully wounded I gave it up.  But, then, since I came,” etc.

“Do you mean to say,” said I, “that you had proposed to her before that conversation in the carriage, when you asked Brewster the symptoms of love?  I like your audacity.”  “Oh, she understood, but it is all up now, for she says ‘No!’”

My husband says I am extravagant.  “No, my friend, not that,” said I.  “I had fifteen hundred dollars and I have spent every cent of it in my housekeeping.  Not one cent for myself, not one cent for dress nor any personal want whatever.”  He calls me “hospitality run mad.”

SOURCE: Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut, A Diary from Dixie, p. 268-9

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