Monday, May 1, 2017

Diary of John Hay: Monday, March 7, 1864

Key West. We steamed away as it grew light and arrived at Key West about noon. The Key lies bathed in the quiet ripples of the pale green water, whitened by the coral. So bright green that I cannot describe the gem-like shine of the distant waters. The sea-gulls that soar above the sea have their white breasts and inside wings splendidly stained with green by the reflection of the gleaming water.

I went ashore, and after several inquiries found that Gen'l W. lived half a mile from the dock. I went to a hotel to inquire about a carriage, and was referred to a Jew druggist, — who pointed to a bay rat hitched to a shay in front of his door, and implored me for pure love of God to be back by two. I drove out by the beach to the barracks; passed two black sentries, and found the General's Adjutant, Capt. Bowers, and soon thereafter Genl. W. I was expected, Gen. Banks’ orders having arrived some time ago. I arranged my matters in half an hour.

. . . . In the evening Stickney and I went out to see a “popular nigger” named Sandy. Some young “Knavies” were there. They chatted a moment, ordered some sapodillos (which tasted like Castile soap and rotten apples), and then went away saying they were going to see the ladies. Whereat Sandy chuckled and guffawed to the imminent danger of his supper, which he had been eating quietly, sensibly refusing to let our entrance disturb him.

Sandy talked mostly of his influential friends. “Captains and Colonels and them things,” and gingerly of the rebellious and fugacious. S. asked him if he were bothered much. “No! not sence I broke dat feller's jaw in tree pieces. I b’lieve he was a rebel — a passel of ’em, — a dozen, sah, come to debbil me; dey tore down my fence panels, and I went out to see. I ain’t feared o’ nobody. But a man got to be lively when he's fighting a passel, it's a busy time ob de year den. I hit one ob ’em and he straightened out like a log; broke his jaw in tree pieces; and de rest, dey run. I nebber complains; de officers, dey got dere hands full; mustn't trouble bout every little tittle. I's a darkey sort ob person. I takes off hat to everybody; but dey got to luff me alone.”

SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 175-7. See, Michael Burlingame & John R. Turner Ettlinger, Editors, Inside Lincoln's White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay, p. 176-7 for the full diary entry.

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