Thursday, January 2, 2014

Diary of Mary Boykin Chesnut, April 27, 1862

New Orleans gone1 – and with it the Confederacy. Are we not cut in two?  That Mississippi ruins us if lost. The Confederacy has been done to death by the politicians. What wonder we are lost.  Those wretched creatures of the Congress and the legislature could never rise to the greatness of the occasion.  They seem to think they were in a neighborhood squabble about precedence.

The soldiers have done their duty.

All honor to the army. Statesmen as busy as bees about their own places, or their personal honor, too busy to see the enemy at a distance. With a microscope they were examining their own interests, or their own wrongs, forgetting the interests of the people they represented. They were concocting newspaper paragraphs to injure the government. No matter how vital nothing – nothing can be kept from the enemy. They must publish themselves, night and day, what they are doing, or the omniscient Buncombe will forget them.

This fall of New Orleans means utter ruin to the private fortunes of the Prestons. Mr. Preston came from New Orleans so satisfied with Mansfield Lovell2 and the tremendous steam-rams he saw there. While in New Orleans, Burnside offered Mr. Preston five hundred thousand dollars, a debt due to him from Burnside, and he refused to take it.3 He said the money was safer in Burnside's hands than his. And so it may prove, so ugly is the outlook now. Burnside is wide awake; he is not a man to be caught napping.

A son of Hilliard Judge.4  A little more than twenty years ago we saw Mr. and Mrs. Judge on their bridal tour.  A six-foot man has come into existence since then and grown up to this – full length, we would say.  His mother married again, is now Mrs. Brooks – wants to come and live in Columbia.

Live!  Death, not life, seems to be our fate now.

They have got Beauregard – no longer Felix, but the shiftless – in a cul-de-sac.

Mary Preston was saying she had asked the Hamptons how they relished the idea of being paupers.

“If the country is saved none of us will care for that sort of thing.”

Philosophical and patriotic,

Mr. Chesnut came in.

 ''Conrad has been telegraphed from New Orleans that the great iron-clad Louisiana went down at the first shot."

Mr. Chesnut and Mary Preston walked off, first to the bulletin-board and then to the Prestons'.

1 New Orleans had been seized by the Confederates at the outbreak of the war. Steps to capture it were soon taken by the Federals and on April 18, 1862, the mortar flotilla, under Farragut, opened fire on its protecting forts. Making little impression on them, Farragut ran boldly past the forts and destroyed the Confederate fleet, comprising 13 gunboats and two ironclads. On April 27th he took formal possession of the city.

2 A civil servant in New York City before the war.  Lovell was commissioned a major general of the C. S. A. and Assigned to command New Orleans in 1861.

3 John S. Preston sold his extensive La. Sugar plantations to John Burnside, a New Orleans merchant in 1857.  These holdings helped make Burnside the greatest sugar planter in the state during the 1860’s.

4 Hilliard M. Judge, Sr., was a Methodist minister in Camden who died in 1857.

SOURCES: Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut, A Diary from Dixie, p. 158-9; C. Van Woodward, Editor, Mary Chesnut’s Civil War,  p. 330-1.

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