Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Diary of William Howard Russell: May 27, 1861

I visited several of the local companies, their drill-grounds and parades; but few of the men were present, as nearly all are under orders to proceed to the camp at Tangipao or to march to Richmond. Privates and officers are busy in the sweltering streets purchasing necessaries for their journey. As one looks at the resolute, quick, angry faces around him, and hears but the single theme, he must feel the South will never yield to the North, unless as a nation which is beaten beneath the feet of a victorious enemy.

In every State there is only one voice audible. Hereafter, indeed, state jealousies may work their own way; but if words means anything, all the Southern people are determined to resist Mr. Lincoln's invasion as long as they have a man or a dollar. Still, there are certain hard facts which militate against the truth of their own assertions, “that they are united to a man, and prepared to fight to a man.” Only 15,000 are under arms out of the 50,000 men in the State of Louisiana liable to military service.

“Charges of abolitionism” appear in the reports of police cases in the papers every morning; and persons found guilty, not of expressing opinions against slavery, but of stating their belief that the Northerners will be successful, are sent to prison for six months. The accused are generally foreigners, or belong to the lower orders, who have got no interest in the support of slavery. The moral suasion of the lasso, of taring and feathering, head-shaving, ducking, and horseponds, deportation on rails, and similar ethical processes are highly in favor. As yet the North have not arrived at such an elevated view of the necessities of their position.

The New Orleans papers are facetious over their new mode of securing unanimity, and highly laud what they call “the course of instruction in the humane institution for the amelioration of the condition of Northern barbarians and abolition fanatics, presided over by Professor Henry Mitchell,” who, in other words, is the jailer of the work-house reformatory.

I dined at the Lake with Mr. Mure, General Lewis, Major Ranney, Mr. Duncan Kenner, a Mississippi planter, Mr. Claiborne, &c., and visited the club in the evening. Every night since I have been in New Orleans there have been one or two fires; to-night there were three — one a tremendous conflagration. When I inquired to what they were attributable, a gentleman who sat near me, bent over, and looking me straight in the face, said, in a low voice, “The slaves.” The flues, perhaps, and the system of stoves, may also bear some of the blame. There is great enthusiasm among the townspeople in consequence of the Washington artillery, a crack corps, furnished by the first people in New Orleans, being ordered off for Virginia.

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, p. 239-40

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