Saturday, September 17, 2016

Diary of Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle: Tuesday, June 23, 1863

Lawley and I went to inspect the site of Mr Mason's (the Southern Commissioner in London) once pretty house — a melancholy scene. It had been charmingly situated near the outskirts of the town, and by all accounts must have been a delightful little place. When Lawley saw it seven months ago, it was then only a ruin; but since that time Northern vengeance (as directed by General Milroy) has satiated itself by destroying almost the very foundations of the house of this arch-traitor, as they call him. Literally not one stone remains standing upon another; and the debris seems to have been carted away, for there is now a big hole where the principal part of the house stood. Troops have evidently been encamped upon the ground, which was strewed with fragments of Yankee clothing, accoutrements, &c.

I understand that Winchester used to be a most agreeable little town, and its society extremely pleasant. Many of its houses are now destroyed or converted into hospitals; the rest look miserable and dilapidated. Its female inhabitants (for the able-bodied males are all absent in the army) are familiar with the bloody realities of war. As many as 5000 wounded have been accommodated here at one time. All the ladies are accustomed to the bursting of shells and the sight of fighting, and all are turned into hospital nurses or cooks.

From the utter impossibility of procuring corn, I was forced to take the horses out grazing a mile beyond the town for four hours in the morning and two in the afternoon. As one mustn't lose sight of them for a moment, this occupied me all day, while Lawley wrote in the house. In the evening we went to visit two wounded officers in Mrs ——'s house, a major and a captain in the Louisianian Brigade which stormed the forts last Sunday week. I am afraid the captain will die. Both are shot through the body, but are cheery. They served under Stonewall Jackson until his death, and they venerate his name, though they both agree that he has got an efficient successor in Ewell, his former companion in arms; and they confirmed a great deal of what General Johnston had told me as to Jackson having been so much indebted to Ewell for several of his victories. They gave us an animated account of the spirits and feeling of the army. At no period of the war, they say, have the men been so well equipped, so well clothed, so eager for a fight, or so confident of success — a very different state of affairs from that which characterised the Maryland invasion of last year, when half of the army were barefooted stragglers, and many of the remainder unwilling and reluctant to cross the Potomac.

Miss —— told me to-day that dancing and horseracing are forbidden by the Episcopal Church in this part of Virginia.

SOURCE: Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, Three Months in the Southern States: April-June, 1863, p. 234-6

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