War Diary of a Union Woman in the South
HOW IT WAS IN ARKANSAS
March 11, 1862.—The serpent has entered our Eden. The rancor and excitement of New Orleans have invaded this place. If an incautious word betrays any want of sympathy with popular plans, one is " traitorous," " ungrateful," " crazy." If one remains silent and controlled, then one is "phlegmatic," "coolblooded," " unpatriotic." Cool-blooded! Heavens! if they only knew. It is very painful to see lovable and intelligent women rave till the blood mounts to face and brain. The immediate cause of this access of war fever has been the battle of Pea Ridge. They scout the idea that Price and Van Dom have been completely worsted. Those who brought the news were speedily told what they ought to say. " No, it is only a serious check; they must have more men sent forward at once. This country must do its duty." So the women say another company must be raised.
We were guests at a dinner-party yesterday. Mrs. A. was very talkative." Now, ladies, you must all join in with a vim and help equip another company."
" Mrs. L.," she said, turning to me, " are you not going to send your husband? Now use a young bride's influence and persuade him; he would be elected one of the officers." "Mrs. A.," I replied, longing to spring up and throttle her, "the Bible says, 'When a man hath married a new wife, he shall not go to war for one year, but remain at home and cheer up his wife.'" . . .
"Well, H.," I questioned, as we walked home after crossing the lake, " can you stand the pressure, or shall you be forced into volunteering ? " " Indeed," he replied," I will not be bullied into enlisting by women, or by men. I will sooner take my chance of conscription and feel honest about it. You know my attachments, my interests are here; these are my people. I could never fight against them; but my judgment disapproves their course, and the result will inevitably be against us."
This morning the only Irishman left in the village presented himself to H. He has been our wood-sawyer, gardener, and factotum, but having joined the new company, his time recently has been taken up with drilling. H. and Mr. R. feel that an extensive vegetable garden must be prepared while he is here to assist or we shall be short of food, and they sent for him yesterday.
"So, Mike, you are really going to be a soldier?"
" Yes, sor; but faith, Mr. L., I don't see the use of me going to shtop a bullet when sure an* I’m willin’ for it to go where it plazes."
March 18, 1862.— There has been unusual gaiety in this little village the past few days. The ladies from the surrounding plantations went to work to get up a festival to equip the new company. As Annie and myself are both brides recently from the city, requisition was made upon us for engravings, costumes, music, garlands, and so forth. Annie's heart was in the work; not so with me. Nevertheless, my pretty things were captured, and shone with just as good a grace last evening as if willingly lent The ball was a merry one. One of the songs sung was " Nellie Gray," in which the most distressing feature of slavery is bewailed so pitifully. To sing this at a festival for raising money to clothe soldiers fighting to perpetuate that very thing was strange.
March 20, 1862.—A man professing to act by General Hindman's orders is going through the country impressing horses and mules. The overseer of a certain estate came to inquire, of H. if he had not a legal right to protect the property from seizure. Mr. L. said yes, unless the agent could show some better credentials than his bare word. This answer soon spread about, and the overseer returned to report that it excited great indignation, especially among the company of new volunteers. H. was pronounced a traitor, and they declared that no one so untrue to the Confederacy should live there. When H. related the circumstance at dinner, his partner, Mr. R., became very angry, being ignorant of H.’s real opinions. He jumped up in a rage and marched away to the village thoroughfare. There he met a hatch of the volunteers, and said, “We know what you have said of us, and I have come to tell you that you are liars, and you know where to find us.”
Of course I expected a difficulty; but the evening passed, and we retired undisturbed. Not long afterward a series of indescribable sounds broke the stillness of the night, and the tramp of feet was heard outside the house. Mr. R. called out, “It’s a serenade, H. Get up and bring out all the wine you have.” Annie and I peeped through the parlor window, and lo! it was the company of volunteers and a diabolical band composed of bones and broken- winded brass instruments. They piped and clattered and whined for some time, and then swarmed in, while we ladies retreated and listened to the clink of glasses.
March 22.— H., Mr. R., and Mike have been very busy the last few days getting the acre of kitchen-garden plowed and planted. The stay-law has stopped all legal business, and they have welcomed this work. But to-day a thunderbolt fell in our household. Mr. R. came in and announced that he has agreed to join the company of volunteers. Annie’s Confederate principles would not permit her to make much resistance, and she has been sewing and mending as fast as possible to get his clothes ready, stopping now and then to wipe her eyes. Poor Annie! She and Max have been married only a few months longer than we have; but a noble sense of duty animates and sustains her.
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