War Diary of a Union Woman in the South
April 25.—Yesterday I went with Cousin E. to have her picture taken. The picture- galleries are doing a thriving business. Many companies are ordered off to take possession of Fort Pickens (Florida), and all seem to be leaving sweethearts behind them. The crowd was in high spirits; they don’t dream that any destinies will be spoiled. When I got home Edith was reading from the daily paper of the dismissal of Miss G. from her place as teacher for expressing abolition sentiments, and that she would be ordered to leave the city. Soon a lady came with a paper setting forth that she has established a “company “— we are nothing if not military — for making lint and getting stores of linen to supply the hospitals.
My name went down. If it hadn’t, my spirit would have been wounded as with sharp spears before night. Next came a little girl with a subscription paper to get a flag for a certain company. The little girls, especially the pretty ones, are kept busy trotting around with subscription lists. Latest of all came little Guy, Mr. F.’s youngest clerk, the pet of the firm as well as of his home, a mere boy of sixteen. Such senseless sacrifices seem a sin. He chattered brightly, but lingered about, saying good-bye. He got through it bravely until Edith’s husband incautiously said, “You didn’t kiss your little sweetheart,” as he always called Ellie, who had been allowed to sit up. He turned and suddenly broke into agonizing sobs and then ran down the steps.
May 10.—I am tired and ashamed of myself. Last week I attended a meeting of the lint society to hand in the small contribution of linen I had been able to gather. We scraped lint till it was dark. A paper was shown, entitled the “Volunteer’s Friend,” started by the girls of the high school, and I was asked to help the girls with it. I positively declined. To-day I was pressed into service to make red flannel cartridge-bags for ten-inch columbiads. I basted while Mrs. S. sewed, and I felt ashamed to think that I had not the moral courage to say, “I don’t approve of your war and won’t help you, particularly in the murderous part of it.”
May 27.—This has been a scenic Sabbath. Various companies about to depart for Virginia occupied the prominent churches to have their flags consecrated. The streets were resonant with the clangor of drums and trumpets. E. and myself went to Christ Church because the Washington Artillery were to be there.
June 13.— To-day has been appointed a Fast Day. I spent the morning writing a letter on which I put my first Confederate postage stamp. It is of a brown color and has a large 5 in the center. To-morrow must be devoted to all my foreign correspondents before the expected blockade cuts us off.
June 29.—I attended a fine luncheon yesterday at one of the public schools. A lady remarked to a school official that the cost of provisions in the Confederacy was getting very high, butter, especially, being scarce and costly. “Never fear, my dear madam,” he replied, “Texas alone can furnish butter enough to supply the whole Confederacy; we ‘11 soon be getting it from there.” It‘s just as well to have this sublime confidence.
July 15.—The quiet of midsummer reigns, but ripples of excitement break around us as the papers tell of skirmishes and attacks here and there in Virginia. “Rich Mountain” and “Carrick’s Ford” were the last. “You see,” said Mrs. D. at breakfast to-day, “my prophecy is coming true that Virginia will be the seat of war.” “Indeed,” I burst out, forgetting my resolution not to argue, “you may think yourselves lucky if this war turns out to have any seat in particular.”
So far, no one especially connected with me has gone to fight. How glad I am for his mother’s sake that Rob’s lameness will keep him at home. Mr. F., Mr. S., and Uncle Ralph are beyond the age for active service, and Edith says Mr. D. can’t go now. She is very enthusiastic about other people’s husbands being enrolled, and regrets that her Alex is not strong enough to defend his country and his rights.
July 22.— What a day! I feel like one who has been out in a high wind, and cannot get my breath. The news-boys are still shouting with their extras, “Battle of Bull’s Run! List of the killed! Battle of Manassas! List of the wounded!” Tender-hearted Mrs. F. was sobbing so she could not serve the tea; but nobody cared for tea. “O G.!” she said, “three thousand of our own, dear Southern boys are lying out there.” “My dear Fannie,” spoke Mr. F., “they are heroes now. They died in a glorious cause, and it is not in vain. This will end it. The sacrifice had to be made, but those killed have gained immortal names.” Then Rob rushed in with a new extra, reading of the spoils captured, and grief was forgotten. Words cannot paint the excitement. Rob capered about and cheered; Edith danced around ringing the dinner bell and shouting, “Victory!” Mrs. F. waved a small Confederate flag, while she wiped her eyes, and Mr. D. hastened to the piano and in his most brilliant style struck up “Dixie,” followed by “My Maryland” and the “Bonnie Blue Flag.”
“Do not look so gloomy, G.,” whispered Mr. S. “You should be happy to-night; for, as Mr. F. says, now we shall have peace.”
“And is that the way you think of the men of your own blood and race?” I replied. But an utter scorn came over me and choked me, and I walked out of the room. What proof is there in this dark hour that they are not right? Only the emphatic answer of my own soul. To-morrow I will pack my trunk and accept the invitation to visit at Uncle Ralph’s country-house.
Sept. 25.—When I opened the door of Mrs. F.’s room on my return, the rattle of two sewing-machines and a blaze of color met me.
“Ah! G., you are just in time to help us; these are coats for Jeff Thompson’s men. All the cloth in the city is exhausted; these flannel-lined oilcloth table-covers are all we could obtain to make overcoats for Thompson’s poor boys. They will be very warm and serviceable.”
“Serviceable, yes! The Federal army will fly when they see those coats! I only wish I could be with the regiment when these are shared around.” Yet I helped make them.
Seriously, I wonder if any soldiers will ever wear these remarkable coats. The most bewildering combination of brilliant, intense reds, greens, yellows, and blues in big flowers meandering over as vivid grounds; and as no table-cover was large enough to make a coat, the sleeves of each were of a different color and pattern. However, the coats were duly finished. Then we set to work on gray pantaloons, and I have just carried a bundle to an ardent young lady who wishes to assist. A slight gloom is settling down, and the inmates here are not quite so cheerfully confident as in July.
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