Showing posts with label Dixie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dixie. Show all posts

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Dr. Seth Rogers to his Daughter, January 23, 1863

STEAMER Ben Deford, January 23, 1863.

I have refrained till now from informing you of a little expedition which for the last few days has been planning for us. I suppose there never was an expedition, however small, that got off at the time specified, nor one that was kept secret. So we are five days later than intended, and the floating rumors of our plans are enough in number to make it appear that we are to take Charleston and all other prominent Secesh places on the coast of Dixie.

The Planter, the same that Robert Small ran out of Charleston, and the John Adams, each with a company of soldiers and some large guns on board, started from camp at noon today, Major Strong on the John Adams. About four this afternoon we started with four companies including that of Cap’t R[andolph] the Colonel, Surgeon, and second assist't surgeon, and at this moment we are outside the bar, off Hilton Head, sailing as quietly in the soft moonlight and warm atmosphere as if our intentions were of the most peaceful nature.

The Ben Deford is really a magnificent steamer for transporting troops. A turn among the soldiers just now, convinced me that we can have ventilation enough and warmth enough to prevent illness. It is a real pleasure to go and see them so quietly wrapped in their blankets, — no quarreling, no profanity. Very much depends upon our success in this expedition, and the whole responsibility rests upon our Colonel. He has absolute authority over these three steamers. Our men were all anxious to go, and many, belonging to companies not designated for the trip, went to Col. H. and begged to go. Some have been permitted to do so. It remains to see how they will fight.


1 John D. Strong.

SOURCE: Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 43, October, 1909—June, 1910: February 1910. p. 347-8

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Diary of Corporal David L. Day: May 9, 1862


After nearly two months of scrubbing and cleaning, with new caps and pants, the 25th regiment stands in column of platoons on Pollock street, as tony a looking regiment as there is in the service. The colonel and staff with the band take the head of the column, and amid the cheers of hundreds of darkies, the march commences. Leaving the city we soon enter the woods, and after marching about three miles, come out to a cotton plantation. Here we make a short halt and look over the place. It looks rather run down, the house is old and out of repair, the negro quarters are built of logs, and look as though they were hardly habitable. But I presume everything on a plantation has to correspond. The gentlemanly proprietor, whoever he was, has left, taking with him the best of his servants, leaving here a few old ones to shift for themselves. 

A few miles further on, we came to another cotton plantation. This presented a better appearance, a neat cottage house, painted white with green blinds, good barns and surroundings. The negro quarters were comfortable looking houses, built of boards, with glass windows, and whitewashed. This gentleman with his servants had also gone up the country. About two miles further on, at a fork of the road, we found the 17th Massachusetts, Col. Amory, doing picket duty. Here a road branched to the right leading into the woods, which we took, following it about four miles, coming out at a small clearing, where was a little red house and log barn, with a few negro cabins. This is known as the Red house, and we relieve the 23d Massachusetts, which is doing picket duty. And this then is to be our home for a while. It certainly is retired and rural, not another house within four miles of us. The clearing is not over twelve or fifteen acres in extent, with a small creek running through it. Woods to the right of us, wools to the left of us, woods to the front of us, woods all around us. This surely must be the place for which Cowper sighed, when he wrote, 

“O! for a lodge in some vast wilderness.” 

After getting a little rested from the long march, we pitched our tents in a field a short distance from the house. The colonel and his family, with the band, pitched their camp in the large shady yard next to the house. The tents up, the picket guard is detailed an posted ; a part of them along the road we came up, and connecting with the 17th Massachusetts, a part along the road to the right, and connecting with the 27th Massachusetts stationed at Bachellor's creek, and the balance along the roads and horse paths leading into Dixie. The tents up, the pickets out, dress parade and supper over, I reckon the country must be safe for one night at least, and I will improve it by trying to get some sleep and rest, for it will be just my luck to be on the detail tomorrow. 

SOURCE: David L. Day, My Diary of Rambles with the 25th Mass. Volunteer Infantry, p. 55-6

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Diary of 5th Sergeant Osborn H. Oldroyd: May 9, 1863

Orders this morning to draw two days' rations, pack up and be ready to move at a moment's warning. We drew hard-tack, coffee, bacon, salt and sugar, and stored them in our haversacks. Some take great care so to pack the hard-tack that it will not dig into the side while marching, for if a corner sticks out too much anywhere, it is only too apt to leave its mark on the soldier. Bacon, too, must be so placed as not to grease the blouse or pants. I see many a bacon badge about me—generally in the region of the left hip. In filling canteens, if the covers get wet the moisture soaks through and scalds the skin. The tin cup or coffee-can is generally tied to the canteen or else to the blanket or haversack, and it rattles along the road, reminding one of the sound of the old cow coming home. All trifling troubles like these on the march may be easily forestalled by a little care, but care is something a soldier is not apt to take, and he too often packs his “grub” as hurriedly as he “bolts” it. We were soon ready to move, and filled our canteens with the best water we have had for months. We did not actually get our marching order, however, until near three o'clock P. M., so that being anxious to take fresh water with us, we had to empty and refill canteens several times. As we waited for the order, a good view was afforded us of the passing troops, and the bristling lines really looked as if there was war ahead.

O, what a grand army this is, and what a sight to fire the heart of a spectator with a speck of patriotism in his bosom. I shall never forget the scene of to-day, while looking back upon a mile of solid columns, marching with their old tattered flags streaming in the summer breeze, and hearkening to the firm tramp of their broad brogans keeping step to the pealing fife and drum, or the regimental bands discoursing “Yankee Doodle” or “The Girl I Left Behind Me.” I say it was a grand spectacle—but how different the scene when we meet the foe advancing to the strains of “Dixie” and “The Bonny Blue Flag.” True, I have no fears for the result of such a meeting, for we are marching full of the prestige of victory, while our foes have had little but defeat for the last two years. There is an inspiration in the memory of victory. Marching through this hostile country with large odds against us, we have crossed the great river and wil1 cut our way through to Vicksburg, let what dangers may confront us. To turn back we should be overwhelmed with hos[t]s exulting on their own native soil. These people can and will fight desperately, but they cannot put a barrier in our way that we cannot pass. Camped a little after dark.

SOURCE: Osborn Hamiline Oldroyd, A Soldier's Story of the Siege of Vicksburg, p. 11-12

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Diary of Corporal David L. Day: October 12, 1861

The boys are settling down to the routine of military duty, and getting accustomed to camp life. They take kindly to discipline, and seem anxious to learn the drill.


Presentations are the order of the day. The adjutant has had a horse presented him by his firemen friends. A great, stout, clumsy, good-natured horse. I should think he was better adapted for hauling a fire engine than for a parade horse, but perhaps will answer the purpose well enough.

The major's friends have also presented him with a horse. A good kind of horse enough. Nothing very stylish or dashy about him for a war charger, but perhaps he can smell the battle as far as any horse. The major, in a clever little speech, assured his friends that they would never hear of the nag's striking his best gait to the rear. The major being a man of immense rotundity, I imagine that the horse after carrying him a couple of hours, would feel willing to give boot to go into the ranks rather than remain on the staff.

The Worcester ladies, with commendable patriotism, have presented us with a splendid silk banner (the national colors), and have enjoined us to carry it with us in our wanderings, and return it again to them without dishonor. And we have sworn by a thousand stout hearts and bright bayonets, that that banner shall float above the battlements of secession and be again returned to them, crowned with the laurel wreaths of victory. And when amid the flame and thunder of the battle, we look on its bright folds, remembering its fair donors, rush to victory and glory.


Our time is being occupied with drills and receiving company, with which we are highly favored and are always glad to see. The boys are having leave of absence, and are visiting their homes preparatory for their departure south. Many are the speculations among the boys as to our destination, but no one seems to know anything about it. I tell them I think we shall go to Dixie.


After hearing several candidates for the office of chaplain, they have finally settled on Rev. Horace James, pastor of the old South church, Worcester. I think they have shown good judgment in selecting a chaplain of the orthodox faith, as no one visiting our camp for an hour could doubt their belief in the existence of the burning lake by the way they consign each other to that locality.


The pretty girls, God bless their souls, are always first and foremost in every good work, and they are now in session at Agricultural Hall, busily at work for the soldiers. They are making repairs and alterations in our uniforms, sewing on chevrons and doing whatever small jobs of needlework we may desire. They have also furnished us with needles, thread, wax, buttons, pincushions, pins and other small articles which we may need. For all of which they will please accept the warmest emotions of grateful hearts.

SOURCE: David L. Day, My Diary of Rambles with the 25th Mass. Volunteer Infantry, p. 7-8

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes to Sardis Birchard, August 25, 1863

Camp White, August 25, 1863.

Dear Uncle:— . . . I keep my cavalry moving as much as possible. The infantry has little to do. The prisoners taken and deserters coming in all talk in a way that indicates great despondency in Dixie. If the movements of Rosecrans on Chattanooga, Burnside towards Cumberland Gap, and Gilmore at Charleston are reasonably successful, the Rebellion will be nearer its end by the middle of October than I have anticipated. A great contrast between the situation now and a year ago, when Lee was beating Pope out of the Valley and threatening Washington. Beat the peace men in your elections and the restoration of the Union is sure to come in good time.

. . . There will be no need of your going to Delaware or Columbus merely to get Lucy. If she goes to Fremont she will be able to travel without other escort than the boys. — Love to Mother. I enjoy her letters.

R. B. Hayes.
S. Birchard.

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 430

Friday, May 25, 2018

Captain Charles Wright Wills: April 18, 1864

Scottsboro, Ala., April 18, 1864.

No changes to note in the military situation of our portion of Dixie, but the note of preparation is heard on every side. All making ready for the Spring campaign, which every one prophesies will be the bloodiest one of the war. Johnston is undoubtedly collecting all the Rebel troops in the West, on the Georgia Central R. R. and will have a large force. But ours will be perfectly enormous. Not one of our regiments but is stronger to-day than a year ago, and many divisions number from one-third to three-quarters more than then. Our division when we marched through from Memphis last fall was hardly 4,500 (for duty) strong. Now 'tis 7,000, and growing every day. We have no doubt of our ability to whip Johnston most completely, but if he can raise 70,000 men, and we think he can, of course somebody will stand a remarkably good chance for being hurt in the proceedings. He has crossed a division of infantry, away off on our right, beyond Elk river. 'Tis hard to tell what for. Maybe to cooperate with Forrest. Certainly to forage some, and some think possibly to attract our attention in that direction while he makes a dash on our lines east of Huntsville. This latter would, to my idea, be akin to the action of that youth Harper represents in his “April,” standing on his head on the railroad track, six feet before the locomotive under way: “Rash.” Twenty-four years old yesterday, and three years in the service. Celebrated the day by calling on a good looking “mountain ewe,” and dining therewith. Made arrangements to have a deer and turkey hunt with her papa and some of his friends, Colonel Cobb, (formerly of United States Congress) among others. To give you an idea of the Southern love for titles, I'll name part of the citizens who help to form our party next Wednesday. Colonel Cobb, Colonel Provinse, Colonel Young, and Majors Hall and Hust. Every man who owns as many as two negroes is at least a colonel. None of them rank as low as captains. Spring is coming very slowly. At least four weeks behind time. Trees are becoming quite verdant, and many of the flowers are up. I would like to send you a few haunches of nice venison after my hunt, but expect, all things considered, 'twould hardly be worth while to try. Heard to-day of the wedding of one of my most particularest friends, a young lady of Decatur. Was sensible enough to marry a soldier; but am not certain she got the right one. Heaven help her.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 227-8

Friday, May 18, 2018

Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes to Sophia Birchard Hayes, July 16, 1863

Fayetteville, July 16, 1863.

Dear Mother: — We have been into Dixie and are safe out again into our own lines — a very lively and pleasant raid.

I see Morgan is raiding in Ohio. I hope he will be caught. It will not surprise me if we are called home to look after him. I regard this as one of the reckless efforts of a despairing and lost cause. Certainly the Rebel prospects were never before so dark, nor ours so cheering.

I am very well. No time to say more.

R. B. Hayes.
Mrs. Sophia Hayes.

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 419

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Diary of Luman Harris Tenney: Monday, November 10, 1862

After breakfast — poor beef — went into town. Advance with secesh flag and a dozen rushed to it and showed passes from Raines and McDonald — one had taken an oath to shoot every picket, straggler, messenger or pilot he could. Citizens came in for protection. Several recruits came in with guns. 6th sang John Brown and Dixie. Got back to the Mills at noon — tired out and chafed up badly — without anything to eat to speak of but fresh beef — and that seldom enough. On a trot most of the time — tried to rest some. Letters from home and Fannie.

SOURCE: Frances Andrews Tenney, War Diary Of Luman Harris Tenney, p. 43

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lieutenant-Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes to Lucy Webb Hayes, June 3, 1862

Flat Top Mountain, June 3, 1862.

Dearest:  — I am made happy by your letter of the 24th and the picture of Webb. Enclosed I send Webb a letter from Lieutenant Kennedy.

I am not surprised that you have been some puzzled to make out our movements and position from the confused accounts you see in the papers. Our log-book would run about this way: Flat Top Mountain, twenty miles south of Raleigh, is the boundary line between America and Dixie — between western Virginia, either loyal or subdued, and western Virginia, rebellious and unconquered. [Here follows an account of the movements and activities of the regiment during May, which is a repetition in brief of previous letters and Diary entries.] Here we are safe as a bug in a rug — the enemy more afraid of us than we are of them — and some of us do fear them quite enough. My opinion was, we ought to have fought Marshall at Princeton, but it is not quite certain.

All our regiments have behaved reasonably well except [the] Thirty-fourth, Piatt's Zouaves, and Paxton's Cavalry. Don't abuse them, but they were pretty shabby. The zouaves were scattered seventy miles, reporting us all cut to pieces, etc., etc. Enough of war.

The misfortune of our situation is, we have not half force enough for our work. If we go forward the enemy can come in behind us and destroy valuable stores, cut off our supplies, and cut through to the Ohio River, — for we are not strong enough to leave a guard behind us.

We look with the greatest interest to the great armies. Banks' big scare will do good. It helps us to about fifty thousand new men.

I nearly forgot to tell you how we were all struck by lightning on Saturday. We had a severe thunder-storm while at supper. We were outside of the tent discussing lightning — the rapidity of sound, etc., etc., Avery and Dr. McCurdy both facing me, Dr. Joe about a rod off, when there came a flash and shock and roar. The sentinel near us staggered but did not fall. Dr. McCurdy and Avery both felt a pricking sensation on the forehead. I felt as if a stone had hit me in the head. Captain Drake's arm was benumbed for a few minutes. My horse was nearly knocked down. Some horses were knocked down. Five trees near by were hit, and perhaps one hundred men more or less shocked, but strange to say “nobody hurt.”

All things still look well for a favorable conclusion to the war. I do not expect to see it ended so speedily as many suppose, but patience will carry us through.

I thought of you before I got up this morning, saying to myself, “Darling Lucy, I love you so much,” and so I do.

Mrs. Hayes.

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 285-6

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Diary of William Howard Russell: May 10, 1861

The cabin of one of these steamers, in the month of May, is not favorable to sleep. The wooden beams of the engines creak and scream “consumedly,” and the great engines themselves throb as if they would break through their  thin, pulse covers of pine, — and the whistle sounds, and the calliope shrieks out “Dixie” incessantly. So, when I was up and dressed, breakfast was over, and I had an opportunity of seeing the slaves on board, male and female, acting as stewards and stewardesses, at their morning meal, which they took with much good spirits and decorum. They were nicely dressed — clean and neat. I was forced to admit to myself that their Ashantee grandsires and grandmothers, or their Kroo and Dahomey progenitors were certainly less comfortable and well clad, and that these slaves had other social advantages, though I could not recognize the force of the Bishop of Georgia's assertion, that from slavery must come the sole hope of, and machinery for, the evangelization of Africa. I confess I would not give much for the influence of the stewards and stewardesses in Christianizing the blacks.

The river, the scenery, and the scenes were just the same as yesterday's — high banks, cotton-slides, wooding stations, cane brakes, —and a very miserable negro population, if the specimens of women and children at the landings fairly represented the mass of the slaves. They were in strong contrast to the comfortable, well-dressed domestic slaves on board, and it can well be imagined there is a wide difference between the classes, and that those condemned to work in the open fields must suffer exceedingly.

A passenger told us the captain's story. A number of planters, the narrator among them, subscribed a thousand dollars each to get up a vessel for the purpose of running a cargo of slaves, with the understanding they were to pay so much for the vessel, and so much per head if she succeeded, and so much if she was taken or lost. The vessel made her voyage to the coast, was laden with native Africans, and in due time made her appearance off Mobile. The collector heard of her, but, oddly enough, the sheriff was not about at the time, the United States Marshal was away, and as the vessel could no[t] be seen next morning, it was fair to suppose she had gone up the river, or somewhere or another. But it so happened that Captain Maher, then commanding a river steamer called the Czar (a name once very appropriate for the work, but since the serf emancipation rather out of place), found himself in the neighborhood of the brig about nightfall; next morning, indeed, the Czar was at her moorings in the river; but Captain Maher began to grow rich, he had fine negroes fresh run on his land, and bought fresh acres, and finally built the “Southern Republic.” The planters asked him for their share of the slaves. Captain Maher laughed pleasantly; he did not understand what they meant. If he had done anything wrong, they had their legal remedy. They wrere completely beaten; for they could not have recourse to the tribunals in a case which rendered them liable to capital punishment. And so Captain Maher, as an act of grace, gave them a few old niggers, and kept the rest of the cargo.

It was worth while to see the leer with which he listened to this story about himself. “Wall now! You think them niggers I’ve abord came, from Africa! I'll show you. Jist come up here, Bully!" A boy of some twelve years of age, stout, fat, nearly naked, came up to us; his color was jet black, his wool close as felt, his cheeks were marked with regular parallel scars, and his teeth very white, looked as if they had been filed to a point, his belly was slightly protuberant, and his chest was marked with tracings of tattoo marks.

“What's your name, sir?”

“My name Bully.”

"Where were you born?"

"Me born Sout Karliner, sar!'

“There, you see he wasn't taken from Africa," exclaimed the Captain, knowingly. "I've a lot of these black South Caroliny niggers abord, haven't I, Bully?”

“Yas, sar.”

“Are you happy, Bully?”

“Yas, sar.”

"Show how you're happy."

Here the boy rubbed his stomach, and grinning with delight, said, “Yummy! yummy! plenty belly full.”

“That's what I call a real happy feelosophical chap,” quoth the Captain. “I guess you've got a lot in your country can't at their stomachs and say, ‘yummy, yummy, plenty belly full!’”

“Where did he get those marks on his face?”

“Oh, them? Wall, it's a way them nigger women has of marking their children to know them; isn't it, Bully?”

“Yas, sar! me 'spose so!”

“And on his chest?”

“Wall, r'ally I do b'l'eve them's marks agin the smallpox.”

“Why are his teeth filed?”

“Ah, there now! You'd never have guessed it; Bully done that himself, for the greater ease of biting his vittels.”

In fact, the lad, and a good many of the hands, were the results of Captain Maher's little sail in the Czar.

“We're obleeged to let 'em in some times to keep up the balance agin the niggers you run into Canaydy.”

From 1848 to 1852 there were no slaves run; but since the migrations to Canada and the personal liberty laws, it has been found profitable to run them. There is a bucolic ferocity about these Southern people which will stand them good stead in the shock of battle. How the Spartans would have fought against any barbarians who came to emancipate their slaves, or the Romans have smitten those who would manumit slave and creditor together!

To-night, on the lower deck, amid wood fagots, and barrels, a dance of negroes was arranged by an enthusiast, who desired to show how “happy they were.” That is the favorite theme of the Southerners; the gallant Captain Maher becomes quite eloquent when he points to Bully's prominent “yummy,” and descants on the misery of his condition if he had been left to the precarious chances of obtaining such developments in his native land; then turns a quid, and, as if uttering some sacred refrain to the universal hymn of the South, says, ‘Yes, sir, they're the happiest people on the face of the airth!”

There was a fiddler, and also a banjo-player, who played uncouth music to the clumsiest of dances, which it would be insulting to compare to the worst Irish jig; and the men with immense gravity and great effusion of sudor, shuffled and cut and heeled and buckled to each other with an overwhelming solemnity, till the rum-bottle warmed them up to the lighter graces of the dance, when they became quite overpowering. “Yes, sir, jist look at them, how they're enjoying it; they're the happiest people on the face of the earth.” When “wooding” and firing up, they don't seem to be in the possession of the same exquisite felicity.

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, p. 186-9

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Diary of Sarah Morgan: Tuesday, March 31, 1863

“To be, or not to be; that's the question.” Whether ’tis nobler in the Confederacy to suffer the pangs of unappeasable hunger and never-ending trouble, or to take passage to a Yankee port, and there remaining, end them. Which is best? I am so near daft that I cannot pretend to say; I only know that I shudder at the thought of going to New Orleans, and that my heart fails me when I think of the probable consequence to mother if I allow a mere outward sign of patriotism to overbalance what should be my first consideration — her health. For Clinton is growing no better rapidly. To be hungry is there an everyday occurrence. For ten days, mother writes, they have lived off just hominy enough to keep their bodies and souls from parting, without being able to procure another article — not even a potato. Mother is not in a condition to stand such privation; day by day she grows weaker on her new regimen; I am satisfied that two months more of danger, difficulties, perplexities, and starvation will lay her in her grave. The latter alone is enough to put a speedy end to her days. Lilly has been obliged to put her children to bed to make them forget they were supperless, and when she followed their example, could not sleep herself, for very hunger.

We have tried in vain to find another home in the Confederacy. After three days spent in searching Augusta, Gibbes wrote that it was impossible to find a vacant room for us, as the city was already crowded with refugees. A kind Providence must have destined that disappointment in order to save my life, if there is any reason for Colonel Steadman's fears. We next wrote to Mobile, Brandon, and even that horrid little Liberty, besides making inquiries of every one we met, while Charlie, too, was endeavoring to find a place, and everywhere received the same answer — not a vacant room, and provisions hardly to be obtained at all.

The question has now resolved itself to whether we shall see mother die for want of food in Clinton, or, by sacrificing an outward show of patriotism (the inward sentiment cannot be changed), go with her to New Orleans, as Brother begs in the few letters he contrives to smuggle through. It looks simple enough. Ought not mother's life to be our first consideration? Undoubtedly! But suppose we could preserve her life and our free sentiments at the same time? If we could only find a resting-place in the Confederacy! This, though, is impossible. But to go to New Orleans; to cease singing “Dixie”; to be obliged to keep your sentiments to yourself — for I would not wound Brother by any Ultra-Secession speech, and such could do me no good and only injure him — if he is as friendly with the Federals as they say he is; to listen to the scurrilous abuse heaped on those fighting for our homes and liberties, among them my three brothers — could I endure it? I fear not. Even if I did not go crazy, I would grow so restless, homesick, and miserable, that I would pray for even Clinton again. Oh, I don't, don't want to go! If mother would only go alone, and leave us with Lilly! But she is as anxious to obtain Dr. Stone's advice for me as we are to secure her a comfortable home; and I won't go anywhere without Miriam, so we must all go together. Yet there is no disguising the fact that such a move will place us in a very doubtful position to both friends and enemies. However, all our friends here warmly advocate the move, and Will Pinckney and Frank both promised to knock down any one who shrugged their shoulders and said anything about it. But what would the boys say? The fear of displeasing them is my chief distress. George writes in the greatest distress about my prolonged illness, and his alarm about my condition. “Of one thing I am sure,” he writes, “and that is that she deserves to recover; for a better little sister never lived.” God bless him! My eyes grew right moist over those few words. Loving words bring tears to them sooner than angry ones. Would he object to such a step when he knows that the very medicines necessary for my recovery are not to be procured in the whole country? Would he rather have mother dead and me a cripple, in the Confederacy, than both well, out of it? I feel that if we go we are wrong; but I am satisfied that it is worse to stay. It is a distressing dilemma to be placed in, as we are certain to be blamed whichever course we pursue. But I don't want to go to New Orleans!

Before I had time to lay down my pen this evening, General Gardiner and Major Wilson were announced; and I had to perform a hasty toilette before being presentable. The first remark of the General was that my face recalled many pleasant recollections; that he had known my family very well, but that time was probably beyond my recollection; and he went on talking about father and Lavinia, until I felt quite comfortable, with this utter stranger. . . . I would prefer his speaking of “our” recent success at Port Hudson to “my”; for we each, man, woman, and child, feel that we share the glory of sinking the gunboats and sending Banks back to Baton Rouge without venturing on an attack; and it seemed odd to hear any one assume the responsibility of the whole affair and say “my success” so unconsciously. But this may be the privilege of generals. I am no judge, as this is the first Confederate general I have had the pleasure of seeing. Wish it had been old Stonewall! I grow enthusiastic every time I think of the dear old fellow!

I am indebted to General Gardiner for a great piece of kindness, though. I was telling him of how many enemies he had made among the ladies by his strict regulations that now rendered it almost impossible for the gentlemen to obtain permission to call on them, when he told me if I would signify to my friends to mention when they applied that their visit was to be here, and not elsewhere, that he would answer for their having a pass whenever they called for one. Merci du compliment; mais c’est trop tard, Monsieur!

SOURCE: Sarah Morgan Dawson, A Confederate Girl's Diary, p. 342-6

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Diary of Judith Brockenbrough McGuire: August 12, 1864

I am sorry to record a defeat near Moorfield, in Hardy County. These disasters are very distressing to us all, except to the croakers, who find in them so much food for their gloom, that I am afraid they are rather pleased than otherwise. They always, on such occasions, elongate their mournful countenances, prophesy evil, and chew the cud of discontent with a better show of reason than they can generally produce. The signal failure of Grant's mine to blow up our army, and its recoil upon his own devoted troops, amply repay us for our failure in Hardy. God's hand was in it, and to Him be the praise.

One of my friends in the office is a victim of Millroy's reign in Winchester. She wrote to a friend of hers at the North, expressing her feelings rather imprudently. The letter was intercepted, and she was immediately arrested, and brought in an ambulance through the enemy's lines to our picket-post, where she was deposited by the roadside. She says that she was terribly distressed at leaving her mother and sisters, but when she got into Confederate lines the air seemed wonderfully fresh, pure and free, and she soon found friends. She came to Richmond and entered our office. About the same time a mother and daughters who lived perhaps in the handsomest house in the town, were arrested, for some alleged imprudence of one of the daughters. An ambulance was driven to the door, and the mother was taken from her sick-bed and put into it, together with the daughters. Time was not allowed them to prepare a lunch for the journey. Before Mrs. ––– was taken from her house Mrs. Millroy had entered it, the General having taken it for his head-quarters; and before the ambulance had been driven off, one of their own officers was heard to say to Mrs. M., seeing her so entirely at home in the house, “For goodness’ sake, madam, wait until the poor woman gets off.” Is it wonderful, then, that the Winchester ladies welcome our troops with gladness? that they rush out and join the band, singing “The bonnie blue flag” and “Dixie,” as the troops enter the streets, until their enthusiasm and melody melt all hearts? Was it strange that even the great and glorious, though grave and thoughtful, Stonewall Jackson should, when pursuing Banks through its streets, have been excited until he waved his cap with tears of enthusiasm, as they broke forth in harmonious songs of welcome? Or that the ladies, not being satisfied by saluting them with their voices, waving their handkerchiefs, and shouting for joy, should follow them with more substantial offerings, filling their haversacks with all that their depleted pantries could afford? Or is it wonderful that our soldiers should love Winchester so dearly and fight for it so valiantly? No, it is beautiful to contemplate the long-suffering, the firmness under oppression, the patience, the generosity, the patriotism of Winchester. Other towns, I dare say, have borne their tyranny as well, and when their history is known they will call forth our admiration as much; but we know of no such instance. The “Valley” throughout shows the same devotion to our cause, and the sufferings of the country people are even greater than those in town.

Some amusing incidents sometimes occur, showing the eagerness of the ladies to serve our troops after a long separation. A lady living near Berryville, but a little remote from the main road, says, that when our troops are passing through the country, she sometimes feels sick with anxiety to do something for them. She, one morning, stood in her porch, and could see them turn in crowds to neighbouring houses which happened to be on the road, but no one turned out of the way far enough to come to her house. At last one man came along, and finding that he was passing her gate, she ran out with the greatest alacrity to invite him to come in to get his breakfast. He turned to her with an amused expression and replied: “I am much obliged to you, madam; I wish I could breakfast with you, but as I have already eaten four breakfasts to please the ladies, I must beg you to excuse me.”

SOURCE: Judith W. McGuire, Diary of a Southern Refugee, During the War, p. 285-7

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Woman's Diary Of The Siege Of Vicksburg: May 17, 1863

Hardly was our scanty breakfast over this morning when a hurried ring drew us both to the door. Mr. J––, one of H––'s assistants, stood there in high excitement.

“Well, Mr. L––, they are upon us; the Yankees will be here by this evening.”

“What do you mean?”

“That Pemberton has been whipped at Baker's Creek and Big Black, and his army are running back here as fast as they can come and the Yanks after them, in such numbers nothing can stop them. Hasn't Pemberton acted like a fool?”

“He may not be the only one to blame,” replied H––.

“They're coming along the Big B. road, and my folks went down there to be safe, you know; now they're right in it. I hear you can't see the armies for the dust; never was anything else known like it. But I must go and try to bring my folks back here.”

What struck us both was the absence of that concern to be expected, and a sort of relief or suppressed pleasure. After twelve some worn-out-looking men sat down under the window.

“What is the news?” I inquired.

“Ritreat, ritreat!” they said, in broken English — they were Louisiana Acadians.

About three o'clock the rush began. I shall never forget that woful sight of a beaten, demoralized army that came rushing back, — humanity in the last throes of endurance. Wan, hollow-eyed, ragged, footsore, bloody, the men limped along unarmed, but followed by siege-guns, ambulances, gun-carriages, and wagons in aimless confusion. At twilight two or three bands on the court-house hill and other points began playing Dixie, Bonnie Blue Flag, and so on, and drums began to beat all about; I suppose they were rallying the scattered army.

SOURCE: George W. Cable, “A Woman's Diary Of The Siege Of Vicksburg”, The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, Vol. XXX, No. 5, September 1885, p. 770-1

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Diary of Sarah Morgan: Friday Night, January 23, 1863

I am particularly happy to-day, for we have just heard from Brother for the first time since last July. And he is well, and happy, and wants us to come to him in New Orleans so he can take care of us, and no longer be so anxious for our safety. If we only could! —To be sure the letter is from a gentleman who is just out of the city, who says he writes at Brother's earnest request; still it is something to hear, even indirectly. One hundred and fifty dollars he encloses with the request that mother will draw for any amount she wishes. Dear Brother, money is the least thing we need; first of all, we are dying for want of a home. If we could only see ours once more!

During this time we have heard incidentally of Brother; of his having taken the oath of allegiance — which I am confident he did not do until Butler's October decree — of his being a prominent Union man, of his being a candidate for the Federal Congress, and of his withdrawal; and finally of his having gone to New York and Washington, from which places he only returned a few weeks since. That is all we ever heard. A very few people have been insolent enough to say to me, “Your brother is as good a Yankee as any.” My blood boils as I answer, “Let him be President Lincoln if he will, and I would love him the same.” And so I would. Politics cannot come between me and my father's son. What he thinks right, is right, for him, though not for me. If he is for the Union, it is because he believes it to be in the right, and I honor him for acting from conviction, rather than from dread of public opinion. If he were to take up the sword against us to-morrow, Miriam and I, at least, would say, “If he thinks it his duty, he is right; we will not forget he is our father's child.” And we will not. From that sad day when the sun was setting for the first time on our father's grave, when the great, strong man sobbed in agony at the thought of what we had lost, and taking us both on his lap put his arms around us and said, “Dear little sisters, don't cry; I will be father and brother, too, now,” he has been both. He respects our opinions, we shall respect his. I confess myself a rebel, body and soul. Confess? I glory in it! Am proud of being one; would not forego the title for any other earthly one!

Though none could regret the dismemberment of our old Union more than I did at the time, though I acknowledge that there never was a more unnecessary war than this in the beginning, yet once in earnest, from the secession of Louisiana I date my change of sentiment. I have never since then looked back; forward, forward! is the cry; and as the Federal States sink each day in more appalling folly and disgrace, I grow prouder still of my own country and rejoice that we can no longer be confounded with a nation which shows so little fortitude in calamity, so little magnanimity in its hour of triumph. Yes! I am glad we are two distinct tribes! I am proud of my country; only wish I could fight in the ranks with our brave soldiers, to prove my enthusiasm; would think death, mutilation, glorious in such a cause; cry, “War to all eternity before we submit.” But if I can't fight, being unfortunately a woman, which I now regret for the first time in my life, at least I can help in other ways. What fingers can do in knitting and sewing for them, I have done with the most intense delight; what words of encouragement and praise could accomplish, I have tried on more than one bold soldier boy, and not altogether in vain; I have lost my home and all its dear contents for our Southern Rights, have stood on its deserted hearthstone and looked at the ruin of all I loved — without a murmur, almost glad of the sacrifice if it would contribute its mite towards the salvation of the Confederacy. And so it did, indirectly; for the battle of Baton Rouge which made the Yankees, drunk with rage, commit outrages in our homes that civilized Indians would blush to perpetrate, forced them to abandon the town as untenable, whereby we were enabled to fortify Port Hudson here, which now defies their strength. True they have reoccupied our town; that Yankees live in our house; but if our generals said burn the whole concern, would I not put the torch to our home readily, though I love its bare skeleton still? In deed I would, though I know what it is to be without one. Don't Lilly and mother live in a wretched cabin in vile Clinton while strangers rest under our father's roof? Yankees, I owe you one for that!

Well! I boast myself Rebel, sing “Dixie,” shout Southern Rights, pray for God's blessing on our cause, without ceasing, and would not live in this country if by any possible calamity we should be conquered; I am only a woman, and that is the way I feel. Brother may differ. What then? Shall I respect, love him less? No! God bless him! Union or Secession, he is always my dear, dear Brother, and tortures could not make me change my opinion.

SOURCE: Sarah Morgan Dawson, A Confederate Girl's Diary, p. 316-9

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Diary of Judith Brockenbrough McGuire: June 6, 1863

We have been interested lately by a visit to this village of our old friend, Mrs. Thornton, of Rappahannock County, She gives most graphic descriptions of her sojourn of seven weeks among the Yankees last summer. Sixty thousand surrounded her house, under command of General Siegel. On one occasion, he and his staff rode up and announced that they would take tea with her. Entirely alone, that elegant old lady retained her composure, and with unruffled countenance rang her bell; when the servant appeared, she said to him, “John, tea for fourteen.” She quietly retained her seat, conversing with them with dignified politeness, and submitting as best she could to the General's very free manner of walking about her beautiful establishment, pronouncing it “baronial,” and regretting, in her presence, that he had not known of its elegancies and comforts in time, that he might have brought on Mrs. Siegel, and have made it his head-quarters. Tea being announced, Mrs. T., before proceeding to the dining-room, requested the servant to call a soldier in, who had been guarding her house for weeks, and who had sought occasion to do her many kindnesses. When the man entered, the General demurred: “No, no, madam, he will not go to table with us.” Mrs. T. replied, “General, I must beg that you will allow this gentleman to come to my table, for he has been a friend to me when I have sadly wanted one.” The General objected no farther; the man took tea with the master. After tea, the General proposed music, asking Mrs. T. if she had ever played; she replied that “such was still her habit.” The piano being opened, she said if she sang at all she must sing the songs of her own land, and then, with her uncommonly fine voice, she sang “The Bonnie Blue Flag,” “Dixie,” and other Southern songs, with great spirit. They listened with apparent pleasure. One of the staff then suggested that the General was a musician. Upon her vacating the seat he took it, and played in grand style; with so much beauty and accuracy, she added, with a twinkle of her eye, that I strongly suspected him of having been a music-master. Since that time she has heard that he was once master of that beautiful art in Mobile. Well, he was at least a more innocent man then than now. Almost every woman of the South, or at least of Virginia, will have her tale to tell when this “cruel war is over.” The life of too many will be, alas! as a “tale that is told;” its interest, its charm even its hope, as far as this world is concerned, having passed away. Their crown of rejoicing will be in the public weal, which their loved and lost have fought, bled, and died to establish; but their own hearts will be withered, their hearths deserted.

Mrs. Greenhow Daniel, of Fredericksburg, has been giving some amusing incidents of her sudden departure from her home. She had determined to remain, but when, on the night of the bombardment, a shell burst very near her house, her husband aroused her to say that she must go. They had no means of conveyance, and her two children were both under three years of age, and but one servant, (the others having gone to the Yankees,) a girl twelve years old. It so happened that they had access to three straw carriages, used by her own children and those of her neighbours. They quickly determined to put a child in each of two carriages, and to bundle up as many clothes as would fill the third. The father drew the carriage containing one child, the mother the other child, and the little girl drew the bundle of clothes. They thus set out, to go they knew not whither, only to get out of the way of danger. It was about midnight, a dark, cold night. They went on and on, to the outskirts of the town, encountering a confused multitude rushing pell-mell, with ever and anon a shell bursting at no great distance, sent as a threat of what they might expect on the morrow. They were presently overtaken by a respectable shoemaker whom they knew, rolling a wheelbarrow containing a large bundle of clothes, and the baby. They were attracted by the poor little child rolling off from its elevated place on the bundle, and as Mrs. D. stopped, with motherly solicitude for the child, the poor man told his story. In the darkness and confusion he had become separated from his wife and other children, and knew not where to find them; he thought he might find them but for anxiety about the baby. Mrs. D. then proposed that he should take her bundle of clothes with his in the wheelbarrow, and put his child into the third straw carriage. This being agreed to, the party passed on. When they came to our encampment, a soldier ran out to offer to draw one carriage, and thus rest the mother; having gone as far as he dared from his regiment, then another soldier took his place to the end of his line, and so on from one soldier to another until our encampment was passed. Then she drew on her little charge about two miles farther, to the house of an acquaintance, which was wide open to the homeless. Until late the next day the shoemaker's baby was under their care, but he at last came, bringing the bundle in safety. As the day progressed the cannon roared and the shells whistled, and it was thought advisable for them to go on to Chancellorsville. The journey of several miles was performed on foot, still with the straw carriages, for no horse nor vehicle could be found in that desolated country. They remained at Chancellorsville until the 2d or 3d of May, when that house became within range of cannon. Again she gathered up her little flock, and came on to Ashland. Her little three-years old boy explored the boarding-house as soon as he got to it, and finding no cellar he became alarmed, and running to his mother, exclaimed, “This house won't do, mother; we all have no cellar to go into when they shell it!” Thus our children are born and reared amid war and bloodshed! It seemed so sad to me to see a bright little girl, a few days ago, of four years old, stop in the midst of her play, when she heard distant thunder, exclaiming, “Let me run home, they are firing!” Poor little child, her father had been a sacrifice; no wonder that she wanted to run to her mother when she thought she heard firing. Tales far more sad than that of Mrs. D. are told, of the poor assembled by hundreds on the roadside in groups, having no shelter to cover them, and often nothing to eat, on that dark winter's night.

SOURCE: Judith W. McGuire, Diary of a Southern Refugee, During the War, p. 218-22

Friday, August 7, 2015

1st Lieutenant Charles Fessenden Morse, June 14, 1862

Camp Near Newtown,
June 14, 1862.

After about eighteen days' absence, here we are back again in Virginia, camped on the identical piece of ground where the fight raged the fiercest on Saturday night, the 24th of May. We crossed the Potomac the 10th, Tuesday, and bivouacked on this side of the river; the next morning we started early, six o'clock, and marched to Bunker Hill, twenty-two miles, camping there that night; the next day we marched twenty miles to this place. Our march through Winchester was with closed ranks, band playing “John Brown,” “Yankee Doodle” and “Dixie,” and our old Harper's Ferry flag flying, almost torn to pieces by the bullets of the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth. People scowled as we marched through town.

As I said before, our camp is on the ground occupied by us in the first skirmish of Saturday night, and what is a still more striking coincidence, our mess tent is pitched on the exact piece of ground that our skirmishers rallied on when they poured in such a deadly fire to the rebel cavalry. The last man of ours that was killed here was buried close by, by a citizen. Yesterday afternoon, I rode back to Winchester and over the battle field. The effects of the artillery were still very apparent; stone walls and fences knocked to pieces, trees cut off, etc. Near where our right was, are three graves of our men who were killed there.

I had a very pleasant visit to the hospital where our wounded are; they are mostly looking very well. It does one good to see how they brighten up when one of their officers comes into the room where they are. I believe I spoke in one of my last letters about a private named Stevens, in our company, whom I saw wounded, first by a piece of shell, then by a bullet. The poor fellow is dead; I could not find out any particulars about him yesterday, only that he died in hospital June 4th. He was a very good boy, not more than eighteen years old; he was one of the recruits that joined us last fall; he always did his duty faithfully, and was a brave little fellow. It seems sadder about him because he had an older brother in the company, who always took care of him when anything was the matter. He has been very anxious since the fight, and now the first news he has received is of his death. It is a severe shock, but he bears it bravely, and says he feels happy that his brother never showed himself a coward.

SOURCE: Charles Fessenden Morse, Letters Written During the Civil War, 1861-1865, p. 68-9

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Louise Wigfall to Francis H. Wigfall, July 15, 1861

July 15th, Longwood, near Boston.

. . . I received your last letter several days ago, and I had a letter from Mama about the same time, telling Grandmama to send us on by the first good opportunity, but the way Mr. Walters said was the only way we could go would not have been safe, and I am now anxiously awaiting news from Mama as to whether we shall go to Fortress Monroe, and let Papa send a flag of truce, and get us or not. My trunks were all packed ready to start at a minute's notice, when we received Mr. Walter's letter, telling us that the only way of reaching Richmond was by going through Winchester, to which you know the troops are making a general movement.

You may imagine how I felt. When Mr. Walters wrote the last time, all was different, and I fully expected to go home. I had already pictured our meeting. I almost felt your kiss and I heard Papa calling us “his darlings” and Mama's dear voice, and in one moment all was gone, and I glanced out of my window and instead of Richmond, I saw miserable old Boston. I felt as if my heart would break.

You ask me in your last if I am not “isolated” — that is exactly the word. With the exception of Emma Babcock, and her family, there is not a soul here that cares whether I go or stay, or that I could call a friend; but if nobody likes me, there is some satisfaction in knowing there is no love lost. If I did not follow your injunction, and never believe what I see in Republican journals I should have an awful time of it; for they make out the most desperate case. All the C. S. soldiers are poor, half starved, naked, miserable wretches that will run if you stick your finger at them; who are all waiting for a chance to desert, etc., and become loyal citizens to King Abraham, the First, and prime minister, General Scott. The Southerners are defeated in every engagement; all the killed and wounded are on their side, and none are injured on the other. Such is about the summary of their statements — mais je ne le crois pas, and so they don't disturb my mind much. I saw that Papa had gone disguised as a cattle drover to Washington, to pick up information for the President! That is about a specimen of their stories. Mama writes me in her last that you have joined the Military School at the University of Virginia, and would enter the army in three months, if you wished to, at the end of that time. I suppose you are very glad. I don't wonder and wish I could go too. I sit down to the piano every day and play “Dixie” and think of you all away in “the land of cotton,” etc.

SOURCE: Louise Wigfall Wright, A Southern Girl in ’61, p. 60-2

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Diary of William Howard Russell: Monday, April 15, 1861

Up at dawn. Crossed by ferry to Portsmouth, and arrived at railway station, which was at no place in particular, in a street down which the rails were laid. Mr. Robinson, the superintendent, gave me permission to take a seat in the engine car, to which I mounted accordingly, was duly introduced to, and shook hands with the engineer and the stoker, and took my seat next the boiler. Can any solid reason be given why we should not have those engine sheds or cars in England? They consist of a light frame placed on the connection of the engine with the tender, and projecting so as to include the end of the boiler and the stoke-hole. They protect the engineer from rain, storm, sun, or dust. Windows at each side afford a clear view in all directions, and the engineer can step out on the engine itself by the doors on the front part of the shed. There is just room for four persons to sit uncomfortably, the persons next the boiler being continually in dread of roasting their legs at the furnace, and those next the tender being in danger of getting logs of wood from it shaken down on their feet. Nevertheless I rarely enjoyed anything more than that trip. It is true one's enjoyment was marred by want of breakfast, for I could not manage the cake of dough and the cup of bitter, sour, greasy nastiness, called coffee, which were presented to me in lieu of that meal this morning.

But the novelty of the scene through which I passed atoned for the small privation. I do not speak of the ragged streets and lines of sheds through which the train passed, with the great bell of the engine tolling as if it were threatening death to the early pigs, cocks, hens, and negroes and dogs which walked between the rails — the latter, by the by, were always the first to leave — the negroes generally divided with the pigs the honor of making the nearest stand to the train — nor do I speak of the miserable suburbs of wooden shanties, nor of the expanse of inundated lands outside the town. Passing all these, we settled down at last to our work: the stoker fired up, the engine rattled along over the rugged lane between the trees which now began to sweep around us from the horizon, where they rose like the bank of a river or the shores of a sea, and presently we plunged into the gloom of the primeval forest, struggling as it were, with the last wave of the deluge.

The railroad, leaving the land, boldly leaped into the air, and was carried on frailest cobweb-seeming tracery of wood far above black waters, from which rose a thick growth and upshooting of black stems of dead trees, mingled with the trunks and branches of others still living, throwing out a most luxuriant vegetation. The trestle-work over which the train was borne, judged by the eye, was of the slightest possible construction. Sometimes one series of trestles was placed above another, so that the cars ran on a level with the tops of the trees; and, looking down, we could see before the train passed the inky surface of the waters, broken into rings and agitated, round the beams of wood. The trees were draped with long creepers and shrouds of Spanish moss, which fell from branch to branch, smothering the leaves in their clammy embrace, or waving in pendulous folds in the air. Cypress, live-oak, the dogwood, and pine struggled for life with the water, and about their stems floated balks of timber, waifs and strays carried from the rafts by flood, or the forgotten spoils of the lumberer. On these lay tortoises, turtles, and enormous frogs, which lifted their heads with a lazy curiosity when the train rushed by, or flopped into the water as if the sight and noise were too much for their nerves. Once a dark body of greater size plashed into the current which marked the course of a river. “There's many allygaitors come up here at times,” said the engineer, in reply to my question; “but I don't take much account of them.”

When the trestle-work ceased, the line was continued through the same description of scenery, generally in the midst of water, on high embankments which were continually cut by black rapid streams, crossed by bridges on trestles of great span. The strange tract we are passing through is the “Dismal Swamp,” a name which must have but imperfectly expressed its horrors before the railway had traversed its outskirts, and the canal, which is constructed in its midst, left traces of the presence of man in that remnant of the world's exit from the flood. In the centre of this vast desolation there is a large loch, called “Lake Drummond,” in the jungle and brakes around which the runaway slaves of the plantations long harbored, and once or twice assembled bands of depredators, which were hunted down, broken up, and destroyed like wild beasts.

Mr. Robinson, a young man some twenty-seven years of age, was an excellent representative of the young American — full of intelligence, well-read, a little romantic in spite of his practical habits and dealing with matters of fact, much attached to the literature, if not to the people, of the old country; and so far satisfied that English engineers knew something of their business, as to be anxious to show that American engineers were not behind them. He asked me about Washington politics with as much interest as if he had never read a newspaper. I made a remark to that effect. “Oh, sir, we can't believe,” exclaimed he, “a word we read in our papers. They tell a story one day, to contradict it the next. We never know when to trust them, and that's one reason, I believe, you find us all so anxious to ask questions and get information from gentlemen we meet travelling.” Of the future he spoke with apprehension; “but,” said he, “I am here representing the interests of a large number of Northern shareholders, and I will do my best for them. If it comes to blows after this, they will lose all, and I must stand by my own friends down South, though I don't belong to it.”

So we rattle on, till the scene, at first so attractive, becomes dreary and monotonous, and I tire of looking out for larger turtles or more alligators. The silence of these woods is oppressive. There is no sign of life where the train passes through the water, except among the amphibious creatures. After a time, however, when we draw out of the swamp and get into a dry patch, wild, ragged-looking cattle may be seen staring at us through the trees, or tearing across the rail, and herds of porkers, nearly in the wild-boar stage, scuttle over the open. Then the engineer opens the valve; the sonorous roar of the engine echoes though the woods, and now and then there is a little excitement caused by a race between a pig and the engine, and piggy is occasionally whipped off his legs by the cow-lifter, and hoisted volatile into the ditch at one side. When a herd of cattle, however, get on the line and show fight, the matter is serious. The steam horn is sounded, the bell rung, and steam is eased off, and every means used to escape collision; for the railway company is obliged to pay the owner for whatever animals the trains kill, and a cow's body on one of these poor rails is an impediment sufficient to throw the engine off, and “send us to immortal smash.”

It was long before we saw any workmen or guards on the line; but at one place I got out to look at a shanty of one of the road watchmen. It was a building of logs, some twenty feet long by twelve feet broad, made in the rudest manner, with an earthen roof, and mud stuffed and plastered between the logs to keep out the rain. Although the day was exceedingly hot, there were two logs blazing on the hearth, over which was suspended a pot of potatoes. The air inside was stifling, and the black beams of the roof glistened with a clammy sweat from smoke and unwholesome vapors. There was not an article of furniture, except a big deal chest and a small stool, in the place; a mug and a teacup stood on a rude shelf nailed to the wall. The owner of this establishment, a stout negro, was busily engaged with others in “wooding up” the engine from the pile of cut timber by the roadside. The necessity of stopping caused by the rapid consumption is one of the désagrémens of wood fuel. The wood is cut down and stacked on platforms, at certain intervals along the line; and the quantity used is checked off against the company at the rate of so much per cord. The negro was one of many slaves let out to the company. White men would not do the work, or were too expensive; but the overseers and gangsmen were whites. “How can they bear that fire in the hut?” “Well. If you went into it in the very hottest day in summer, you would find the niggers sitting close up to blazing pine-logs; and they sleep at night, or by day when they've fed to the full, in the same way.” My friend, nevertheless, did not seem to understand that any country could get on without negro laborers.

By degrees we got beyond the swamps, and came upon patches of cleared land — that is, the forest had been cut down, and the only traces left of it were the stumps, some four or five feet high, “snagging” up above the ground; or the trees had been girdled round, so as to kill them, and the black trunks and stiff arms gave an air of meagre melancholy and desertion to the place, which was quite opposite to its real condition. Here it was that the normal forest and swamp had been subjugated by man. Presently we came in sight of a flag fluttering from a lofty pine, which had been stripped of its branches, throwing broad bars of red and white to the air, with a blue square in the upper quarter containing seven stars. “That's our flag,” — said the engineer, who was a quiet man, much given to turning steam-cocks, examining gauges, wiping his hands in fluffy impromptu handkerchiefs, and smoking tobacco — “That's our flag! And long may it wave — o'er the land of the free and the home of the ber-rave!” As we passed, a small crowd of men, women, and children, of all colors, in front of a group of poor broken-down shanties or log-huts, cheered — to speak more correctly — whooped and yelled vehemently. The cry was returned by the passengers in the train. “We're all the right sort hereabouts,” said the engineer. “Hurrah for Jeff Davis!” The right sort were not particularly flourishing in outward aspect, at all events. The women, pale-faced, were tawdry and ragged; the men, yellow, seedy looking. For the first time in the States, I noticed barefooted people.

Now began another phase of scenery — an interminable pine-forest, far as the eye could reach, shutting out the light on each side by a wooden wall. From this forest came the strongest odor of turpentine; presently black streaks of smoke floated out of the wood, and here and there we passed cleared spaces, where in rude-looking furnaces and factories people more squalid and miserable looking than before were preparing pitch, tar, turpentine, rosin, and other naval stores, for which this part of North Carolina is famous. The stems of the trees around are marked by white scars, where the tappings for the turpentine take place, and many dead trunks testified how the process ended.

Again, over another log village, a Confederate flag floated in the air; and the people ran out, negroes and all, and cheered as before. The new flag is not so glaring and gaudy as the Stars and Stripes; but, at a distance, when the folds hang together, there is a considerable resemblance in the general effect of the two. If ever there is a real sentiment du drapeau got up in the South, it will be difficult indeed for the North to restore the Union. These pieces of colored bunting seem to twine themselves through heart and brain.

The stations along the roadside now gradually grew in proportion, and instead of a small sentry-box beside a wood pile, there were three or four wooden houses, a platform, a booking office, an “exchange” or drinking room, and general stores, like the shops of assorted articles in an Irish town. Around these still grew the eternal forest, or patches of cleared land dotted with black stumps. These stations have very grand names, and the stores are dignified by high-sounding titles; nor are “billiard saloons” and “restaurants” wanting. We generally found a group of people waiting at each; and it really was most astonishing to see well-dressed, respectable-looking men and women emerge out of the “dismal swamp,” and out of the depths of the forest, with silk parasols and crinoline, bandboxes and portmanteaux, in the most civilized style. There were always some negroes, male and female, in attendance on the voyagers, handling the baggage or the babies, and looking comfortable enough, but not happy. The only evidence of the good spirits and happiness of these people which I saw was on the part of a number of men who were going off from a plantation for the fishing on the coast. They and their wives and sisters, arrayed in their best — which means their brightest, colors-—were grinning from ear to ear as they bade good-by. The negro likes the mild excitement of sea fishing, and in pursuit of it he feels for the moment free.

At Goldsborough, which is the first place of importance on the line, the wave of the Secession tide struck us in full career. The station, the hotels, the street through which the rail ran was filled with an excited mob, all carrying arms, with signs here and there of a desire to get up some kind of uniform — flushed faces, wild eyes, screaming mouths, hurrahing for “Jeff Davis” and “the Southern Confederacy,” so that the yells overpowered the discordant bands which were busy with “Dixie's Land.” Here was the true revolutionary furor in full sway. The men hectored, swore, cheered, and slapped each other on the backs; the women, in their best, waved handkerchiefs and flung down garlands from the windows. All was noise, dust, and patriotism.

It was a strange sight and a wonderful event at which we were assisting. These men were a levy of the people of North Carolina called out by the Governor of the State for the purpose of seizing upon forts Caswell and Macon, belonging to the Federal Government, and left unprotected and undefended. The enthusiasm of the “citizens” was unbounded, nor was it quite free from a taint of alcohol. Many of the volunteers had flint firelocks, only a few had rifles. All kinds of head-dress were visible, and caps, belts, and pouches of infinite variety. A man in a large wide-awake, with a cock's feather in it, a blue frock-coat, with a red sash and a pair of cotton trousers thrust into his boots, came out of Griswold's Hotel with a sword under his arm, and an article which might have been a napkin of long service, in one hand. He waved the article enthusiastically, swaying to and fro on his legs, and ejaculating “H'ra for Jeff Dav's — H'ra for S'thern E’r’rights!” and tottered over to the carriage through the crowd amid the violent vibration of all the ladies' handkerchiefs in the balcony. Just as he got into the train, a man in uniform dashed after him, and caught him by the elbow, exclaiming, “Them's not the cars, General! The cars this way, General!” The military dignitary, however, felt that if he permitted such liberties in the hour of victory he was degraded forever, so, screwing up his lips and looking grave and grand, he proceeded as follows: “Sergeant, you, go be ––. I say these are my cars! They're all my cars! I'll
send them where I please — to –– if I like, sir. They shall go where I please — to New York, sir, or New Orleans, sir! And sir, I'll arrest you.” This famous idea distracted the General's attention from his project of entering the train, and muttering, “I'll arrest you,” he tacked backwards and forwards to the hotel again.

As the train started on its journey, there was renewed yelling, which split the ear — a savage cry many notes higher than the most ringing cheer. At the wayside inn, where we dined — pièce de résistance being pig — the attendants, comely, well-dressed, clean negresses were slaves — “worth a thousand dollars each.” I am not favorably impressed by either the food or the mode of living, or the manners of the company. One man made very coarse jokes about “Abe Lincoln” and “negro wenches,” which nothing but extreme party passion and bad taste could tolerate. Several of the passengers had been clerks in Government offices at Washington, and had been dismissed because they would not take the oath of allegiance. They were hurrying off full of zeal and patriotism to tender their services to the Montgomery Government.

*          *          *          *          *          *

I had been the object of many attentions and civilities from gentlemen in the train during my journey. One of them, who told me he was a municipal dignitary of Weldon, having exhausted all the inducements that he could think of to induce me to spend some time there, at last, in desperation, said he would be happy to show me “the antiquities of the place.” Weldon is a recent uprising in wood and log-houses from the swamps, and it would puzzle the archaeologists of the world to find anything antique about it.

At nightfall the train stopped at Wilmington, and I was shot out on a platform under a shed, to do the best I could. In a long, lofty, and comfortless room, like a barn, which abutted on the platform, there was a table covered with a dirty cloth, on which lay little dishes of pickles, fish, meat, and potatoes, at which were seated some of our fellow-passengers. The equality of all men is painfully illustrated when your neighbor at table eats with his knife, dips the end of it into the salt, and disregards the object and end of napkins. But it is carried to a more disagreeable extent when it is held to mean that any man who comes to an inn has a right to share your bed. I asked for a room, but I was told that there were so many people moving about just now that it was not possible to give me one to myself; but at last I made a bargain for exclusive possession. When the next train came in, however, the woman very coolly inquired whether I had any objection to allow a passenger to divide my bed, and seemed very much displeased at my refusal; and I perceived three big-bearded men snoring asleep in one bed in the next room to me as I passed through the passage to the dining-room.

The “artist” Moses, who had gone with my letter to the post, returned, after a long absence, pale and agitated. He said he had been pounced upon by the Vigilance Committee, who were rather drunk, and very inquisitive. They were haunting the precincts of the post-office and the railway station, to detect Lincolnites and Abolitionists, and were obliged to keep themselves wide awake by frequent visits to the adjacent bars, and he had with difficulty dissuaded them from paying me a visit. They cross-examined him respecting my opinion of Secession, and desired to have an audience with me in order to give me any information which might be required. I cannot say what reply was given to their questioning; but I certainly refused to have any interview with the Vigilance Committee of Wilmington, and was glad they did not disturb me. Rest, however, there was little or none. I might have as well slept on the platform of the railway station outside. Trains coming in and going out shook the room and the bed on which I lay, and engines snorted, puffed, roared, whistled, and rang bells close to my key-hole.

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, p. 87-94

Friday, May 22, 2015

Lieutenant-Colonel Theodore Lyman to Elizabeth Russell Lyman, April 9, 1865

April 9, 1865

We all were up, according to habit, about daylight, with horses saddled, having staid near Stute's house for the night. In reply to a summons from Grant, Lee has sent in a note to say that he would meet Grant at ten A.M. to confer on measures for peace. The Lieutenant-General answered that he had no authority in the premises and refused the interview; but repeated his offer to accept the army's surrender on parole. Indeed, we suspected his affairs were from bad to worse, for last night we could hear, just at sunset, the distant cannon of Sheridan. He, with his cavalry, had made a forced march on Appomattox Station, where he encountered the head of the Rebel column (consisting, apparently, for the most part of artillery), charged furiously on it, and took twenty cannon and 1000 prisoners; and checked its progress for that night, during which time the 24th and 5th Corps, by strenuous marching, came up and formed line of battle quite across the Lynchburg road, west of Appomattox C.H. Betimes this morning, the enemy, thinking that nothing but cavalry was in their front, advanced to cut their way through, and were met by the artillery and musketry of two corps in position — (Ah! there goes a band playing "Dixie" in mockery. It is a real carnival!) This seems to have struck them with despair. Their only road blocked in front, and Humphreys's skirmishers dogging their footsteps! Well, we laid the General in his ambulance (he has been sick during the whole week, though now much better) and at 6.30 A.M. the whole Staff was off, at a round trot — (90 miles have I trotted and galloped after that Lee, and worn holes in my pantaloons, before I could get him to surrender!). An hour after, we came on the 6th Corps streaming into the main road from the upper one. A little ahead of this we halted to talk with General Wright. At 10.30 came, one after the other, two negroes, who said that some of our troops entered Lynchburg yesterday; and that Lee was now cut off near Appomattox Court House. This gave us new wings! An aide-de-camp galloped on, to urge Humphreys to press the pursuit, and all waggons were ordered out of the road, that the 6th Corps might close in immediately on his rear. Away went the General again, full tilt, along the road crowded by the infantry, every man of whom was footing it, as if a lottery prize lay just ahead! A bugler trotted ahead, blowing to call the attention of the troops, while General Webb followed, crying, “Give way to the right! Give way to the right!” Thus we ingeniously worked our way, amid much pleasantry. “Fish for sale!” roared one doughboy. “Yes,” joined in a pithy comrade, “and a tarnation big one, too!” The comments on the General were endless. “That's Meade.” “Yes, that's him.” “Is he sick?” “I expect he is; he looks kinder wild!” “Guess the old man hain't had much sleep lately.” The heavy artillery firing we had earlier heard, now had suddenly ceased, and there was a perfect stillness — a suspicious circumstance that gave us new hope. Somewhat before noon we got to General Humphreys, some five miles east of the Court House and at the very head of his men. He reported that he had just struck the enemy's skirmish line, and was preparing to drive them back. At that moment an officer rode up and said the enemy were out with a white flag. “They shan't stop me!” retorted the fiery H.; “receive the message but push on the skirmishers!” Back came the officer speedily, with a note. General Lee stated that General Ord had agreed to a suspension of hostilities, and he should ask for the same on this end, of the line. “Hey! what!” cried General Meade, in his harsh, suspicious voice, “I have no sort of authority to grant such suspension. General Lee has already refused the terms of General Grant. Advance your skirmishers, Humphreys, and bring up your troops. We will pitch into them at once!” But lo! here comes now General Forsyth, who had ridden through the Rebel army, from General Sheridan (under a flag), and who now urged a brief suspension. “Well,” said the General, “in order that you may get back to Sheridan, I will wait till two o'clock, and then, if I get no communication from General Lee, I shall attack!” So back went Forsyth, with a variety of notes and despatches. We waited, not without excitement, for the appointed hour. Meantime, negroes came in and said the Rebel pickets had thrown down their muskets and gone leisurely to their main body; also that the Rebels were “done gone give up.” Presently, the General pulled out his watch and said: “Two o'clock — no answer — go forward.” But they had not advanced far, before we saw a Rebel and a Union officer coming in. They bore an order from General Grant to halt the troops. Major Wingate, of General Lee's Staff, was a military-looking man, dressed in a handsome grey suit with gold lace, and a gold star upon the collar. He was courageous, but plainly mortified to the heart. “We had done better to have burnt our whole train three days ago”; he said bitterly. “In trying to save a train, we have lost an army!” And there he struck the pith of the thing. And so we continued to wait till about five, during which time General Humphreys amused us with presents of Confederate notes, of which we found a barrel full (!) in the Rebel waggons. It was a strange spectacle, to see the officers laughing and giving each other $500 notes of a government that has been considered as firmly established by our English friends!

About five came Major Pease. “The Army of Northern Virginia has surrendered!” Headed by General Webb, we gave three cheers, and three more for General Meade. Then he mounted and rode through the 2d and 6th Corps. Such a scene followed as I can never see again. The soldiers rushed, perfectly crazy, to the roadside, and there crowding in dense masses, shouted, screamed, yelled, threw up their hats and hopped madly up and down! The batteries were run out and began firing, the bands played, the flags waved. The noise of the cheering was such that my very ears rang. And there was General Meade galloping about and waving his cap with the best of them! Poor old Robert Lee! His punishment is too heavy — to hear those cheers, and to remember what he once was! My little share of this work is done. God willing, before many weeks, or even days, I shall be at home, to campaign no more!

SOURCE: George R. Agassiz, Editor, Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, p. 355-8

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Southern Chivalry

Some months ago, how long we cannot exactly tell, but presume it was before the strongly contested battle of Bull Run was fought, at all events at a time when the Southern chivalry entertained the most absurd ideas of Northern bravery and classed its soldiers among the very mudsills of society; that the New Orleans Picayune boasted that one Southerner was equal to five Northern soldiers, and proposed in order to settle the contest, that one hundred thousand of the Southern chivalry be opposed to one hundred and fifty thousand northern soldiers and that the Governments accept the result as final!  It was a glorious idea and very befitting the brain that hatched it.  We think by this time that these Southern gentry have learned that if the people of the North have made less pretension to the use of firearms they know quite as well as their neighbors how to use them; and that if they have boasted little of their bravery, it is never wanting when called into requisition.  When peace is once more established in our country, for this generation at least, there will be less bullying of the South over the North; they will feel so cowed by the awful thrashing we have given them, that a prima facie Yankee will be enabled to pass from one end of Dixie to the other without fear of insult.

The idea of physical supremacy knocked out of a bully makes him one of the most obsequious of individuals, compliant as putty in the hands of his superior.  It may not have exactly this effect upon all the chivalry, but they will be very apt to speak a little more courteously when they allude to Yankees and give them a wider berth when they meet them.  Certainly it will raise Yankee prowess in the eyes of the Southern gentlemen, and that to them is the most god like virtue possessed by fallen humanity.

– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Friday Morning, February 21, 1862, p. 2