Sunday, October 1, 2023

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: December 26, 1864

Raining-rained all night. The dark and dismal weather, together with our sad reverses, have made the countenances of croakers in the streets and in the offices more gloomy and somber than ever, foreboding evil in the future. No one doubts the evacuation of Savannah, and I suppose it must be So. Hardee had but 8000 reliable men. The Georgians in Lee's army are more or less demoralized, and a reward of a sixty days' furlough is given for shooting any deserter from our ranks.

An old black chest, containing mostly scraps and odds and ends of housekeeping, yet brought on by my family from Burlington, has remained four years unopened, the key being lost. We have felt an irrepressible anxiety to see its contents, for even rubbish is now valuable. I got a locksmith to send a man to pick the lock, last week, but he failed to find the house, and subsequently was sent to the trenches. I borrowed twenty-five keys, and none of them would fit. I got wire, and tried to pick the lock, but failed. Yesterday, however, when all were at church, I made another effort, prizing at the same time with the poker, when the screws of the hasp came out and the top flew up, revealing only "odds and ends" so far as I could see. I closed it, replaced the striped cover, and put the cage with the parrot on it, where it usually remains. The day, and the expressed objection of my wife to have the lock broken or injured, have, until to-day, restrained me from revealing to the family what I had done. But now I shall assemble them, and by a sort of Christmas story, endeavor to mollify my wife's anticipated displeasure. The examination of the contents will be a delightful diversion for the children, old and young.

My impromptu Christmas tale of the old Black Chest interested the family, and my wife was not angry. Immediately after its conclusion, the old chest was surrounded and opened, and among an infinite variety of rubbish were some articles of value, viz., of chemises (greatly needed), several pairs of stockings, 1 Marseilles petticoat, lace collars, several pretty baskets, 4 pair ladies' slippers (nearly new), and several books—one from my library, an octavo volume on Midwifery, 500 pages, pieced there to prevent the children from seeing the illustrations, given me by the publisher for a notice in my paper, The Madisonian, more than twenty years ago. There were also many toys and keepsakes presented Mrs. J. when she was an infant, forty years ago, and many given our children when they were infants, besides various articles of infants' clothing, etc. etc., both of intrinsic value, and prized as reminiscences. The available articles, though once considered rubbish, would sell, and could not be bought here for less than $500.

This examination occupied the family the remainder of the day and night—all content with this Christmas diversion—and oblivious of the calamities which have befallen the country. It was a providential distraction.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2p. 366-7

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