Strange True Stories of Louisiana
George Washington Cable
Part 5 out of 5
_Tuesday, July 8, 1862._--We start to-morrow. Packing the trunks was a
problem. Annie and I are allowed one large trunk apiece, the gentlemen a
smaller one each, and we a light carpet-sack apiece for toilet articles. I
arrived with six trunks and leave with one! We went over everything
carefully twice, rejecting, trying to shake off the bonds of custom and
get down to primitive needs. At last we made a judicious selection.
Everything old or worn was left; everything merely ornamental, except good
lace, which was light. Gossamer evening dresses were all left. I
calculated on taking two or three books that would bear the most reading
if we were again shut up where none could be had, and so, of course, took
Shakspere first. Here I was interrupted to go and pay a farewell visit,
and when we returned Max had packed and nailed the cases of books to be
left. Chance thus limited my choice to those that happened to be in my
room--"Paradise Lost," the "Arabian Nights," a volume of Macaulay's
History that I was reading, and my prayer-book. To-day the provisions for
the trip were cooked: the last of the flour was made into large loaves of
bread; a ham and several dozen eggs were boiled; the few chickens that
have survived the overflow were fried; the last of the coffee was parched
and ground; and the modicum of the tea was well corked up. Our friends
across the lake added a jar of butter and two of preserves. H. rode off to
X. after dinner to conclude some business there, and I sat down before a
table to tie bundles of things to be left. The sunset glowed and faded and
the quiet evening came on calm and starry. I sat by the window till
evening deepened into night, and as the moon rose I still looked a
reluctant farewell to the lovely lake and the grand woods, till the sound
of H.'s horse at the gate broke the spell.
HOMELESS AND SHELTERLESS
_Thursday, July 10, 1862._ (---- Plantation._)--Yesterday about 4 o'clock
we walked to the lake and embarked. Provisions and utensils were packed in
the lockers, and a large trunk was stowed at each end. The blankets and
cushions were placed against one of them, and Annie and I sat on them
Turkish fashion. Near the center the two smaller trunks made a place for
Reeney. Max and H. were to take turns at the rudder and oars. The last
word was a fervent God-speed from Mr. E., who is left in charge of all our
affairs. We believe him to be a Union man, but have never spoken of it to
him. We were gloomy enough crossing the lake, for it was evident the
heavily laden boat would be difficult to manage. Last night we staid at
this plantation, and from the window of my room I see the men unloading
the boat to place it on the cart, which a team of oxen will haul to the
river. These hospitable people are kindness itself, till you mention the
_Saturday, July 12, 1862. (Under a cotton-shed on the bank of the
Mississippi River.)_--Thursday was a lovely day, and the sight of the
broad river exhilarating. The negroes launched and reloaded the boat, and
when we had paid them and spoken good-bye to them we felt we were really
off. Every one had said that if we kept in the current the boat would
almost go of itself, but in fact the current seemed to throw it about, and
hard pulling was necessary. The heat of the sun was very severe, and it
proved impossible to use an umbrella or any kind of shade, as it made
steering more difficult. Snags and floating timbers were very troublesome.
Twice we hurried up to the bank out of the way of passing gunboats, but
they took no notice of us. When we got thirsty, it was found that Max had
set the jug of water in the shade of a tree and left it there. We must dip
up the river water or go without. When it got too dark to travel safely we
disembarked. Reeney gathered wood, made a fire and some tea, and we had a
good supper. We then divided, H. and I remaining to watch the boat, Max
and Annie on shore. She hung up a mosquito-bar to the trees and went to
bed comfortably. In the boat the mosquitoes were horrible, but I fell
asleep and slept till voices on the bank woke me. Annie was wandering
disconsolate round her bed, and when I asked the trouble, said, "Oh, I
can't sleep there! I found a toad and a lizard in the bed." When dropping
off again, H. woke me to say he was very sick; he thought it was from
drinking the river water. With difficulty I got a trunk opened to find
some medicine. While doing so a gunboat loomed up vast and gloomy, and we
gave each other a good fright. Our voices doubtless reached her, for
instantly every one of her lights disappeared and she ran for a few
minutes along the opposite bank. We momently expected a shell as a feeler.
At dawn next morning we made coffee and a hasty breakfast, fixed up as
well as we could in our sylvan dressing-rooms, and pushed on, for it is
settled that traveling between eleven and two will have to be given up
unless we want to be roasted alive. H. grew worse. He suffered terribly,
and the rest of us as much to see him pulling in such a state of
exhaustion. Max would not trust either of us to steer. About eleven we
reached the landing of a plantation. Max walked up to the house and
returned with the owner, an old gentleman living alone with his slaves.
The housekeeper, a young colored girl, could not be surpassed in her
graceful efforts to make us comfortable and anticipate every want. I was
so anxious about H. that I remember nothing except that the cold
drinking-water taken from a cistern beneath the building, into which only
the winter rains were allowed to fall, was like an elixir. They offered
luscious peaches that, with such water, were nectar and ambrosia to our
parched lips. At night the housekeeper said she was sorry they had no
mosquito-bars ready and hoped the mosquitoes would not be thick, but they
came out in legions. I knew that on sleep that night depended recovery or
illness for H. and all possibility of proceeding next day. So I sat up
fanning away mosquitoes that he might sleep, toppling over now and then on
the pillows till roused by his stirring. I contrived to keep this up till,
as the chill before dawn came, they abated and I got a short sleep. Then,
with the aid of cold water, a fresh toilet, and a good breakfast, I braced
up for another day's baking in the boat.
[If I had been well and strong as usual the discomforts of such a journey
would not have seemed so much to me; but I was still weak from the effects
of the fever, and annoyed by a worrying toothache which there had been no
dentist to rid me of in our village.]
Having paid and dismissed the boat's watchman, we started and traveled
till eleven to-day, when we stopped at this cotton-shed. When our dais was
spread and lunch laid out in the cool breeze, it seemed a blessed spot. A
good many negroes came offering chickens and milk in exchange for
tobacco, which we had not. We bought some milk with money.
A United States transport just now steamed by and the men on the guards
cheered and waved to us. We all replied but Annie. Even Max was surprised
into an answering cheer, and I waved my handkerchief with a very full
heart as the dear old flag we have not seen for so long floated by; but
Annie turned her back.
_Sunday, July 13, 1862. (Under a tree on the east bank of the
Mississippi.)_--Late on Saturday evening we reached a plantation whose
owner invited us to spend the night at his house. What a delightful thing
is courtesy! The first tone of our host's welcome indicated the true
gentleman. We never leave the oars with the watchman; Max takes those,
Annie and I each take a band-box, H. takes my carpet-sack, and Reeney
brings up the rear with Annie's. It is a funny procession. Mr. B.'s family
were absent, and as we sat on the gallery talking it needed only a few
minutes to show this was a "Union man." His home was elegant and tasteful,
but even here there was neither tea nor coffee.
About eleven we stopped here in this shady place. While eating lunch the
negroes again came imploring for tobacco. Soon an invitation came from the
house for us to come and rest. We gratefully accepted, but found the idea
of rest for warm, tired travelers was for us to sit in the parlor on stiff
chairs while the whole family trooped in, cool and clean in fresh toilets,
to stare and question. We soon returned to the trees; however, they
kindly offered corn-meal pound-cake and beer, which were excellent. If we
reach Fetler's Landing to-night, the Mississippi-River part of the journey
is concluded. Eight gunboats and one transport have passed us. Getting out
of their way has been troublesome. Our gentlemen's hands are badly
_Tuesday, July 15, 1862._--Sunday night about ten we reached the place
where, according to our map, Steele's Bayou comes nearest to the
Mississippi, and where the landing should be, but when we climbed the
steep bank there was no sign, of habitation. Max walked off into the woods
on a search, and was gone so long we feared he had lost his way. He could
find no road. H. suggested shouting and both began. At last a distant
halloo replied, and by cries the answerer was guided to us. A negro said
"Who are you? What do you want?" "Travelers seeking shelter for the
night." He came forward and said that was the right place, his master kept
the landing, and he would watch the boat for five dollars. He showed the
road, and said his master's house was one mile off and another house two
miles. We mistook and went to the one two miles off. There a legion of
dogs rushed at us, and several great, tall, black fellows surrounded us
till the master was roused. He put his head through the window and
said,--"I'll let nobody in. The Yankees have been here and took
twenty-five of my negroes to work on their fortifications, and I've no
beds nor anything for anybody." At 1 o'clock we reached Mr. Fetler's, who
was pleasant, and said we should have the best he had. The bed into whose
grateful softness I sank was piled with mattresses to within two or three
feet of the ceiling, and, with no step-ladder, getting in and out was a
problem. This morning we noticed the high-water mark, four feet above the
lower floor. Mrs. Fetler said they had lived up-stairs several weeks.
 Restored omission. See page 262.
FRIGHTS AND PERILS IN STEELE'S BAYOU.
_Wednesday, July 16, 1862. (Under a tree on the bank of Steele's
Bayou.)_--Early this morning our boat was taken out of the Mississippi and
put on Mr. Fetler's ox-cart. After breakfast we followed on foot. The walk
in the woods was so delightful that all were disappointed when a silvery
gleam through the trees showed the bayou sweeping along, full to the
banks, with dense forest trees almost meeting over it. The boat was
launched, calked, and reloaded, and we were off again. Towards noon the
sound of distant cannon began to echo around, probably from Vicksburg
again. About the same time we began to encounter rafts. To get around them
required us to push through brush so thick that we had to lie down in the
boat. The banks were steep and the land on each side a bog. About 1
o'clock we reached this clear space with dry shelving banks and
disembarked to eat lunch. To our surprise a neatly dressed woman came
tripping down the declivity bringing a basket. She said she lived above
and had seen our boat. Her husband was in the army, and we were the first
white people she had talked to for a long while. She offered some
corn-meal pound-cake and beer, and as she climbed back told us to "look
out for the rapids." H. is putting the boat in order for our start and
says she is waving good-bye from the bluff above.
_Thursday, July 17, 1862. (On a raft in Steele's Bayou.)_--Yesterday we
went on nicely awhile and at afternoon came to a strange region of rafts,
extending about three miles, on which persons were living. Many saluted
us, saying they had run away from Vicksburg at the first attempt of the
fleet to shell it. On one of these rafts, about twelve feet square,
bagging had been hung up to form three sides of a tent. A bed was in one
corner, and on a low chair, with her provisions in jars and boxes grouped
round her, sat an old woman feeding a lot of chickens. They were strutting
about oblivious to the inconveniences of war, and she looked serenely at
Having moonlight, we had intended to travel till late. But about ten
o'clock, the boat beginning to go with great speed, H., who was steering;
called to Max:
"Don't row so fast; we may run against something."
"I'm hardly pulling at all."
"Then we're in what she called the rapids!"
The stream seemed indeed to slope downward, and in a minute a dark line
was visible ahead. Max tried to turn, but could not, and in a second more
we dashed against this immense raft, only saved from breaking up by the
men's quickness. We got out upon it and ate supper. Then, as the boat was
leaking and the current swinging it against the raft, H. and Max thought
it safer to watch all night, but told us to go to sleep. It was a strange
spot to sleep in--a raft in the middle of a boiling stream, with a
wilderness stretching on either side. The moon made ghostly shadows and
showed H., sitting still as a ghost, in the stern of the boat, while
mingled with the gurgle of the water round the raft beneath was the boom
of cannon in the air, solemnly breaking the silence of night. It drizzled
now and then, and the mosquitoes swarmed over us. My fan and umbrella had
been knocked overboard, so I had no weapon against them. Fatigue, however,
overcomes everything, and I contrived to sleep.
H. roused us at dawn. Reeney found light-wood enough on the raft to make a
good fire for coffee, which never tasted better. Then all hands assisted
in unloading; a rope was fastened to the boat, Max got in, H. held the
rope on the raft, and, by much pulling and pushing, it was forced through
a narrow passage to the farther side. Here it had to be calked, and while
that was being done we improvised a dressing-room in the shadow of our big
trunks. (During the trip I had to keep the time, therefore properly to
secure belt and watch was always an anxious part of my toilet.) The boat
is now repacked, and while Annie and Reeney are washing cups I have
scribbled, wishing much that mine were the hand of an artist.
_Friday morning, July 18, 1862. (House of Col. K., on Yazoo
River.)_--After leaving the raft yesterday all went well till noon, when
we came to a narrow place where an immense tree lay clear across the
stream. It seemed the insurmountable obstacle at last. We sat despairing
what to do, when a man appeared beside us in a pirogue. So sudden, so
silent was his arrival that we were thrilled with surprise. He said if we
had a hatchet he could help us. His fairy bark floated in among the
branches like a bubble, and he soon chopped a path for us, and was
delighted to get some matches in return. He said the cannon we heard
yesterday were in an engagement with the ram _Arkansas_, which ran out of
the Yazoo that morning. We did not stop for dinner to-day, but ate a hasty
lunch in the boat, after which nothing but a small piece of bread was
left. About two we reached the forks, one of which ran to the Yazoo, the
other to the Old River. Max said the right fork was our road; H. said the
left, that there was an error in Max's map; but Max steered into the right
fork. After pulling about three miles he admitted his mistake and turned
back; but I shall never forget Old River. It was the vision of a drowned
world, an illimitable waste of dead waters, stretching into a great,
silent, desolate forest. A horror chilled me and I begged them to row fast
out of that terrible place.
Just as we turned into the right way, down came the rain so hard and fast
we had to stop on the bank. It defied trees or umbrellas and nearly took
away the breath. The boat began to fill, and all five of us had to bail
as fast as possible for the half-hour the sheet of water was pouring down.
As it abated a cold breeze sprung up that, striking our wet clothes,
chilled us to the bone. All were shivering and blue--no, I was green.
Before leaving Mr. Fetler's Wednesday morning I had donned a dark-green
calico. I wiped my face with a handkerchief out of my pocket, and face and
hands were all dyed a deep green. When Annie turned round and looked at me
she screamed and I realized how I looked; but she was not much better, for
of all dejected things wet feathers are the worst, and the plumes in her
hat were painful.
About five we reached Colonel K.'s house, right where Steele's Bayou
empties into the Yazoo. We had both to be fairly dragged out of the boat,
so cramped and weighted were we by wet skirts. The family were absent, and
the house was headquarters for a squad of Confederate cavalry, which was
also absent. The old colored housekeeper received us kindly and lighted
fires in our rooms to dry the clothing. My trunk had got cracked on top,
and all the clothing to be got at was wet. H. had dropped his in the river
while lifting it out, and his clothes were wet. A spoonful of brandy
apiece was left in the little flask, and I felt that mine saved me from
being ill. Warm blankets and the brandy revived us, and by supper-time we
got into some dry clothes.
Just then the squad of cavalry returned; they were only a dozen, but they
made much, uproar, being in great excitement. Some of them were known to
Max and H., who learned from them that a gunboat was coming to shell them
out of this house. Then ensued a clatter such as twelve men surely never
made before--rattling about the halls and galleries in heavy boots and
spurs, feeding horses, calling for supper, clanking swords, buckling and
unbuckling belts and pistols. At last supper was dispatched, and they
mounted and were gone like the wind. We had a quiet supper and good
night's rest in spite of the expected shells, and did not wake till ten
to-day to realize we were not killed. About eleven breakfast was
furnished. Now we are waiting till the rest of our things are dried to
start on our last day of travel by water.
_Sunday, July 20, 1862_.--A little way down the Yazoo on Friday we ran
into McNutt's Lake, thence into Chickasaw Bayou, and at dark landed at
Mrs. C.'s farm, the nearest neighbors of H.'s uncle. The house was full of
Confederate sick, friends from Vicksburg, and while we ate supper all
present poured out the story of the shelling and all that was to be done
at Vicksburg. Then our stuff was taken from the boat, and we finally
abandoned the stanch little craft that had carried us for over one hundred
and twenty-five miles in a trip occupying nine days. The luggage in a
wagon, and ourselves packed in a buggy, were driven for four or five
miles, over the roughest road I ever traveled, to the farm of Mr. B., H.'s
uncle, where we arrived at midnight and hastened to hide in bed the utter
exhaustion of mind and body. Yesterday we were too tired to think, or to
do anything but to eat peaches.
 More likely twelve yards.--G.W.C.
WILD TIMES IN MISSISSIPPI.
This morning there was a most painful scene. Annie's father came into
Vicksburg, ten miles from here, and learned of our arrival from Mrs. C.'s
messenger. He sent out a carriage to bring Annie and Max to town that they
might go home with him, and with it came a letter for me from friends on
the Jackson Railroad, written many weeks before. They had heard that our
village home was under water, and invited us to visit them. The letter had
been sent to Annie's people to forward, and thus had reached us. This
decided H., as the place was near New Orleans, to go there and wait the
chance of getting into that city. Max, when he heard this from H., lost
all self-control and cried like a baby. He stalked about the garden in the
most tragic manner, exclaiming:
"Oh! my soul's brother from youth up is a traitor! A traitor to his
Then H. got angry and said, "Max, don't be a fool!"
"Who has done this?" bawled Max. "You felt with the South at first; who
has changed you?"
"Of course I feel _for_ the South now, and nobody has changed me but the
logic of events, though the twenty-negro law has intensified my opinions.
I can't see why I, who have no slaves, must go to fight for them, while
every man who has twenty may stay at home."
I, also, tried to reason with Max and pour oil on his wound. "Max, what
interest has a man like you, without slaves, in a war for slavery? Even if
you had them, they would not be your best property. That lies in your
country and its resources. Nearly all the world has given up slavery; why
can't the South do the same and end the struggle? It has shown you what
the South needs, and if all went to work with united hands the South would
soon be the greatest country on earth. You have no right to call H. a
traitor; it is we who are the true patriots and lovers of the South."
This had to come, but it has upset us both. H. is deeply attached to Max,
and I can't bear to see a cloud between them. Max, with Annie and Reeney,
drove off an hour ago, Annie so glad at the prospect of again seeing her
mother that nothing could cloud her day. And so the close companionship of
six months, and of dangers, trials, and pleasures shared together, is
_Oak Ridge, July 26, 1862, Saturday._--It was not till Wednesday that H.
could get into Vicksburg, ten miles distant, for a passport, without which
we could not go on the cars. We started Thursday morning. I had to ride
seven miles on a hard-trotting horse to the nearest station. The day was
burning at white heat. When the station was reached my hair was down, my
hat on my neck, and my feelings were indescribable.
On the train one seemed to be right in the stream of war, among officers,
soldiers, sick men and cripples, adieus, tears, laughter, constant
chatter, and, strangest of all, sentinels posted at the locked car-doors
demanding passports. There was no train south from Jackson that day, so we
put up at the Bowman House. The excitement was indescribable. All the
world appeared to be traveling through Jackson. People were besieging the
two hotels, offering enormous prices for the privilege of sleeping
anywhere under a roof. There were many refugees from New Orleans, among
them some acquaintances of mine. The peculiar style of [women's] dress
necessitated by the exigencies of war gave the crowd a very striking
appearance. In single suits I saw sleeves of one color, the waist of
another, the skirt of another; scarlet jackets and gray skirts; black
waists and blue skirts; black skirts and gray waists; the trimming chiefly
gold braid and buttons, to give a military air. The gray and gold uniforms
of the officers, glittering between, made up a carnival of color. Every
moment we saw strange meetings and partings of people from all over the
South. Conditions of time, space, locality, and estate were all loosened;
everybody seemed floating he knew not whither, but determined to be jolly,
and keep up an excitement. At supper we had tough steak, heavy,
dirty-looking bread, Confederate coffee. The coffee was made of either
parched rye or cornmeal, or of sweet potatoes cut in small cubes and
roasted. This was the favorite. When flavored with "coffee essence,"
sweetened with sorghum, and tinctured with chalky milk, it made a curious
beverage, which, after tasting, I preferred not to drink. Every one else
was drinking it, and an acquaintance said, "Oh, you'll get bravely over
that. I used to be a Jewess about pork, but now we just kill a hog and eat
it, and kill another and do the same. It's all we have."
Friday morning we took the down train for the station near my friend's
house. At every station we had to go through the examination of passes, as
if in a foreign country.
The conscript camp was at Brookhaven, and every man had been ordered to
report there or to be treated as a deserter. At every station I shivered
mentally, expecting H. to be dragged off. Brookhaven was also the station
for dinner. I choked mine down, feeling the sword hanging over me by a
single hair. At sunset we reached our station. The landlady was pouring
tea when we took our seats and I expected a treat, but when I tasted it it
was sassafras tea, the very odor of which sickens me. There was a general
surprise when I asked to exchange it for a glass of water; every one was
drinking it as if it were nectar. This morning we drove out here.
My friend's little nest is calm in contrast to the tumult not far off.
Yet the trials of war are here too. Having no matches, they keep fire,
carefully covering it at night, for Mr. G. has no powder, and cannot flash
the gun into combustibles as some do. One day they had to go with the
children to the village, and the servant let the fire go out. When they
returned at nightfall, wet and hungry, there was neither fire nor food.
Mr. G. had to saddle the tired mule and ride three miles for a pan of
coals, and blow them, all the way back, to keep them alight. Crockery has
gradually been broken and tin-cups rusted out, and a visitor told me they
had made tumblers out of clear glass bottles by cutting them smooth with a
heated wire, and that they had nothing else to drink from.
_Aug. 11, 1862_.--We cannot get to New Orleans. A special passport must be
shown, and we are told that to apply for it would render H. very likely to
be conscripted. I begged him not to try; and as we hear that active
hostilities have ceased at Vicksburg, he left me this morning to return to
his uncle's and see what the prospects are there. I shall be in misery
about conscription till he returns.
_Sunday, Sept. 7_., (Vicksburg, Washington Hotel)--H. did not return for
three weeks. An epidemic disease broke out in his uncle's family and two
children died. He staid to assist them in their trouble. Tuesday evening
he returned for me and we reached Vicksburg yesterday. It was my first
sight of the "Gibraltar of the South." Looking at it from a slight
elevation suggests the idea that the fragments left from world-building
had tumbled into a confused mass of hills, hollows, hillocks, banks,
ditches, and ravines, and that the houses had rained down afterwards. Over
all there was dust impossible to conceive. The bombardment has done little
injury. People have returned and resumed business. A gentleman asked H. if
he knew of a nice girl for sale. I asked if he did not think it impolitic
to buy slaves now.
"Oh, not young ones. Old ones might run off when the enemy's lines
approach ours, but with young ones there is no danger."
We had not been many hours in town before a position was offered to H.
which seemed providential. The chief of a certain department was in
ill-health and wanted a deputy. It secures him from conscription, requires
no oath, and pays a good salary. A mountain seemed lifted off my heart.
_Thursday, Sept. 18, 1862. (Thanksgiving Day.)_--We staid three days at
the Washington Hotel; then a friend of H.'s called and told him to come to
his house till he could find a home. Boarding-houses have all been broken
up, and the army has occupied the few houses that were for rent. To-day H.
secured a vacant room for two weeks in the only boarding-house.
_Oak Haven, Oct. 3_.--To get a house in V. proved impossible, so we agreed
to part for a time till H. could find one. A friend recommended this quiet
farm, six miles from ---- (a station on the Jackson Railroad). On last
Saturday H. came with me as far as Jackson and put me on the other train
for the station.
On my way hither a lady, whom I judged to be a Confederate "blockade
runner," told me of the tricks resorted to to get things out of New
Orleans, including this: A very large doll was emptied of its bran, filled
with quinine, and elaborately dressed. When the owner's trunk was opened,
she declared with tears that the doll was for a poor crippled girl, and it
This farm of Mr. W.'s is kept with about forty negroes. Mr. W.,
nearly sixty, is the only white man on it. He seems to have been wiser in
the beginning than most others, and curtailed his cotton to make room for
rye, rice, and corn. There is a large vegetable garden and orchard; he has
bought plenty of stock for beef and mutton, and laid in a large supply of
sugar. He must also have plenty of ammunition, for a man is kept hunting
and supplies the table with delicious wild turkeys and other game. There
is abundance of milk and butter, hives for honey, and no end of pigs.
Chickens seem to be kept like game in parks, for I never see any, but the
hunter shoots them, and eggs are plentiful. We have chicken for breakfast,
dinner, and supper, fried, stewed, broiled, and in soup, and there is a
family of ten. Luckily I never tire of it. They make starch out of
corn-meal by washing the meal repeatedly, pouring off the water and drying
the sediment. Truly the uses of corn in the Confederacy are varied. It
makes coffee, beer, whisky, starch, cake, bread. The only privations here
are the lack of coffee, tea, salt, matches, and good candles. Mr. W. is
now having the dirt-floor of his smoke-house dug up and boiling from it
the salt that has dripped into it for years. To-day Mrs. W. made tea out
of dried blackberry leaves, but no one liked it. The beds, made out of
equal parts of cotton and corn-shucks, are the most elastic I ever slept
in. The servants are dressed in gray homespun. Hester, the chambermaid,
has a gray gown so pretty that I covet one like it. Mrs. W. is now
arranging dyes for the thread to be woven into dresses for herself and the
girls. Sometimes her hands are a curiosity.
The school at the nearest town is broken up and Mrs. W. says the children
are growing up heathens. Mr. W. has offered me a liberal price to give the
children lessons in English and French, and I have accepted transiently.
_Oct. 28, 1862_.--It is a month to-day since I came here. I only wish H.
could share these benefits--the nourishing food, the pure aromatic air,
the sound sleep away from the fevered life of Vicksburg. He sends me all
the papers he can get hold of, and we both watch carefully the movements
reported, lest an army should get between us. The days are full of useful
work, and in the lovely afternoons I take long walks with a big dog for
company. The girls do not care for walking. In the evening Mr. W. begs me
to read aloud all the war news. He is fond of the "Memphis Appeal," which
has moved from town to town so much that they call it the "Moving Appeal."
I sit in a low chair by the fire, as we have no other light to read by.
Sometimes traveling soldiers stop here, but that is rare.
_Oct. 31_.--Mr. W. said last night the farmers felt uneasy about the
"Emancipation Proclamation" to take effect in December. The slaves have
found it out, though it had been carefully kept from them.
"Do yours know it?" I asked.
"Oh, yes. Finding it to be known elsewhere, I told it to mine with fair
warning what to expect if they tried to run away. The hounds are not far
The need of clothing for their armies is worrying them too. I never saw
Mrs. W. so excited as on last evening. She said the provost-marshal at the
next town had ordered the women to knit so many pairs of socks.
"Just let him try to enforce it and they'll cow-hide him. He'll get none
from me. I'll take care of my own friends without an order from him."
"Well," said Mr. W., "if the South is defeated and the slaves set free,
the Southern people will all become atheists, for the Bible justifies
slavery and says it shall be perpetual."
"You mean, if the Lord does not agree with you, you'll repudiate him."
"Well, we'll feel it's no use to believe in anything."
At night the large sitting-room makes a striking picture. Mr. W., spare,
erect, gray-headed, patriarchal, sits in his big chair by the odorous fire
of pine logs and knots roaring up the vast fireplace. His driver brings to
him the report of the day's picking and a basket of snowy cotton for the
spinning. The hunter brings in the game. I sit on the other side to read.
The great spinning wheels stand at the other end of the room, and Mrs. W.
and her black satellites, the heads of the elderly women in bright
bandanas, are hard at work. Slender and auburn-haired, she steps back and
forth out of shadow into shine following the thread with graceful
movements. Some card the cotton, some reel it into hanks. Over all the
firelight glances, now touching the golden curls of little John toddling
about, now the brown heads of the girls stooping over their books, now the
shadowy figure of little Jule, the girl whose duty it is to supply the
fire with rich pine to keep up the vivid light. If they would only let the
child sit down! But that is not allowed, and she gets sleepy and stumbles
and knocks her head against the wall and then straightens up again. When
that happens often it drives me off. Sometimes while I read the bright
room fades and a vision rises of figures clad in gray and blue lying pale
and stiff on the blood-sprinkled ground.
_Nov. 15, 1862_.--Yesterday a letter was handed me from H. Grant's army
was moving, he wrote, steadily down the Mississippi Central and might cut
the road at Jackson. He has a house and will meet me in Jackson to-morrow.
When Bessie J. and I went in to dinner to-day, a stranger was sitting by
Mr. W.; a dark, heavy-looking man who said but little. I excused myself to
finish packing. Presently Bessie rushed upstairs flushed and angry.
"I shall give Mr. W. a piece of my mind. He must have taken leave of his
"What is the matter, Bessie?"
"Why, G., don't you know whom you've been sitting at table with?"
"That stranger, you mean; I suppose Mr. W. forgot to introduce him."
"Forgot! He knew better than to introduce him! That man is a
nigger-chaser. He's got his bloodhounds here now."
"Did you see the dogs?"
"No, I asked Hester if he had them, and she said, 'Yes.' Think of Mr. W.
bringing him to table with us. If my brothers knew it there would be a
"Where are your brothers? At college still?"
"No, in the army; Pa told them they'd have to come and fight to save their
property. His men cost him twelve to fifteen hundred dollars apiece and
are too valuable to lose."
"Well, I wouldn't worry about this man, he may be useful some day to save
that kind of property."
"Of course, you can take it easily, you're going away; but if Mr. W.
thinks I'm going to sit at table with that wretch he's vastly mistaken."
_Nov. 20, 1862_. (_Vicksburg_.)--A fair morning for my journey back to
Vicksburg. The autumn woods were shining through a veil of silvery mist
and the spicy breezes blew cool and keen from the heart of the pines, a
friend sat beside me, a husband's welcome awaited me. General Pemberton,
recently appointed to the command at Vicksburg, was on the train; also the
gentleman who in New Orleans had told us we should have all the butter we
wanted from Texas. On the cars, as elsewhere, the question of food
alternated with news of the war.
When we ran into the Jackson station H. was on the platform, and I gladly
learned that we could go right on. A runaway negro, an old man, ashy
colored from fright and exhaustion, with his hands chained, was being
dragged along by a common-looking man. Just as we started out of Jackson
the conductor led in a young woman sobbing in a heart-broken manner. Her
grief seemed so overpowering, and she was so young and helpless, that
every one was interested. Her husband went into the army in the opening of
the war, just after their marriage, and she had never heard from him
since. After months of weary searching she learned he had been heard of at
Jackson, and came full of hope, but found no clue. The sudden breaking
down of her hope was terrible. The conductor placed her in care of a
gentleman going her way and left her sobbing. At the next station the
conductor came to ask her about her baggage. She raised her head to try
and answer. "Don't cry so, you'll find him yet." She gave a start, jumped
from her seat with arms flung out and eyes staring. "There he is now!" she
cried. Her husband stood before her.
The gentleman beside her yielded his seat, and as hand grasped hand a
hysterical gurgle gave place to a look like Heaven's peace. The low murmur
of their talk began, and when I looked round at the next station they had
bought pies and were eating them together like happy children.
Midway between Jackson and Vicksburg we reached the station near where
Annie's parents were staying. I looked out, and there stood Annie with a
little sister on each side of her, brightly smiling at us. Max had written
to H., but we had not seen them since our parting. There was only time for
a word and the train flashed away.
 On this plantation, and in this domestic circle, I myself afterward
sojourned, and from them enlisted in the Confederate army. The initials
are fictitious, but the description is perfect.--G.W.C.
We reached Vicksburg that night and went to H.'s room. Next morning the
cook he had engaged arrived, and we moved into this house. Martha's
ignorance keeps me busy, and H. is kept close at his office.
_January 7th, 1863_.--I have had little to record recently, for we have
lived to ourselves, not visiting or visited. Every one H. knows is absent,
and I know no one. H. tells me of the added triumph since the repulse of
Sherman in December, and the one paper published here shouts victory as
much as its gradually diminishing size will allow. Paper is a serious
want. There is a great demand for envelopes in the office where H. is. He
found and bought a lot of thick and smooth colored paper, cut a tin
pattern, and we have whiled away some long evenings making envelopes. I
have put away a package of the best to look at when we are old. The books
I brought from Arkansas have proved a treasure, but we can get no more. I
went to the only book-store open; there were none but Mrs. Stowe's "Sunny
Memories of Foreign Lands." The clerk said I could have that cheap,
because he couldn't sell her books, so I am reading it now. The monotony
has only been broken by letters from friends here and there in the
Confederacy. One of these letters tells of a Federal raid and says, "But
the worst thing was, they would take every tooth-brush in the house,
because we can't buy any more; and one cavalry man put my sister's new
bonnet on his horse, and said 'Get up, Jack,' and her bonnet was gone."
_Feb. 25th, 1863_.--A long gap in my journal, because H. has been ill unto
death with typhoid fever. I nearly broke down from loss of sleep, there
being no one to relieve me. It was terrible to be alone at night with a
patient in delirium, and no one within call. To wake Martha was simply
impossible. I got the best doctor here, but when convalescence began the
question of food was a trial. I got with great difficulty two chickens.
The doctor made the drug-store sell two of their six bottles of port; he
said his patient's life depended on it. An egg is a rare and precious
thing. Meanwhile the Federal fleet has been gathering, has anchored at the
bend, and shells are thrown in at intervals.
_March 20th_.--The slow shelling of Vicksburg goes on all the time, and we
have grown indifferent. It does not at present interrupt or interfere with
daily avocations, but I suspect they are only getting the range of
different points; and when they have them all complete, showers of shot
will rain on us all at once. Non-combatants have been ordered to leave or
prepare accordingly. Those who are to stay are having caves built.
Cave-digging has become a regular business; prices range from twenty to
fifty dollars, according to size of cave. Two diggers worked at ours a
week and charged thirty dollars. It is well made in the hill that slopes
just in the rear of the house, and well propped with thick posts, as they
all are. It has a shelf, also, for holding a light or water. When we went
in this evening and sat down, the earthy, suffocating feeling, as of a
living tomb, was dreadful to me. I fear I shall risk death outside rather
then melt in that dark furnace. The hills are so honeycombed with caves
that the streets look like avenues in a cemetery. The hill called the
Sky-parlor has become quite a fashionable resort for the few upper-circle
families left here. Some officers are quartered there, and there is a band
and a field-glass. Last evening we also climbed the hill to watch the
shelling, but found the view not so good as on a quiet hill nearer home.
Soon a lady began to talk to one of the officers: "It is such folly for
them to waste their ammunition like that. How can they ever take a town
that has such advantages for defense and protection as this? We'll just
burrow into these hills and let them batter away as hard as they please."
"You are right, madam; and besides, when our women are so willing to brave
death and endure discomfort, how can we ever be conquered?"
Soon she looked over with significant glances to where we stood, and began
to talk at H.
"The only drawback," she said, "are the contemptible men who are staying
at home in comfort when they ought to be in the army if they had a spark
I cannot repeat all, but it was the usual tirade. It is strange I have met
no one yet who seems to comprehend an honest difference of opinion, and
stranger yet that the ordinary rules of good breeding are now so entirely
ignored. As the spring comes on one has the craving for fresh, green food
that a monotonous diet produces. There was a bed of radishes and onions in
the garden, that were a real blessing. An onion salad, dressed only with
salt, vinegar, and pepper, seemed a dish fit for a king, but last night
the soldiers quartered near made a raid on the garden and took them all.
_April 2d, 1863_.--We have had to move, and have thus lost our cave. The
owner of the house suddenly returned and notified us that he intended to
bring his family back; didn't think there'd be any siege. The cost of the
cave could go for the rent. That means he has got tired of the Confederacy
and means to stay here and thus get out of it. This house was the only one
to be had. It was built by ex-Senator G., and is so large our tiny
household is lost in it. We only use the lower floor. The bell is often
rung by persons who take it for a hotel and come beseeching food at any
price. To-day one came who would not be denied. "We do not keep a hotel,
but would willingly feed hungry soldiers if we had the food." "I have been
traveling all night and am starving; will pay any price for just bread." I
went to the dining-room and found some biscuits, and set out two, with a
large piece of corn-bread, a small piece of bacon, some nice sirup, and a
pitcher of water. I locked the door of the safe and left him to enjoy his
lunch. After he left I found he had broken open the safe and taken the
_April 28th, 1863_.--What shall we eat? what shall we drink? and
wherewithal shall we be clothed? We have no prophet of the Lord at whose
prayer the meal and oil will not waste. As to wardrobe, I have learned to
darn like an artist. Making shoes is now another accomplishment. Mine were
in tatters. H. came across a moth-eaten pair that he bought me, giving ten
dollars, I think, and they fell into rags when I tried to wear them; but
the soles were good, and that has helped me to shoes. A pair of old
coat-sleeves--nothing is thrown away now--was in my trunk. I cut an exact
pattern from my old shoes, laid it on the sleeves, and cut out thus good
uppers and sewed them carefully; then soaked the soles and sewed the cloth
to them. I am so proud of these home-made shoes that I think I'll put them
in a glass case when the war is over, as an heirloom. H. says he has come
to have an abiding faith that everything he needs to wear will come out of
that trunk while the war lasts. It is like a fairy-casket. I have but a
dozen pins remaining, I gave so many away. Every time these are used they
are straightened and kept from rust. All these curious labors are
performed while the shells are leisurely screaming through the air; but as
long as we are out of range we don't worry. For many nights we have had
but little sleep because the Federal gun-boats have been running past the
batteries. The uproar when this is happening is phenomenal. The first
night the thundering artillery burst the bars of sleep, we thought it an
attack by the river. To get into garments and rush upstairs was the work
of a moment. From the upper gallery we have a fine view of the river, and
soon a red glare lit up the scene and showed a small boat towing two large
barges, gliding by. The Confederates had set fire to a house near the
bank. Another night, eight boats ran by, throwing a shower of shot, and
two burning houses made the river clear as day. One of the batteries has a
remarkable gun they call "Whistling Dick," because of the screeching,
whistling sound it gives, and certainly it does sound like a tortured
thing. Added to all this is the indescribable Confederate yell, which is a
soul-harrowing sound to hear. I have gained respect for the mechanism of
the human ear, which stands it all without injury. The streets are seldom
quiet at night; even the dragging about of cannon makes a din in these
echoing gullies. The other night we were on the gallery till the last of
the eight boats got by. Next day a friend said to H., "It was a wonder you
didn't have your heads taken off last night. I passed and saw them
stretched over the gallery, and grape-shot were whizzing up the street
just on a level with you." The double roar of batteries and boats was so
great, we never noticed the whizzing. Yesterday the _Cincinnati_ attempted
to go by in daylight, but was disabled and sunk. It was a pitiful sight;
we could not see the finale, though we saw her rendered helpless.
PREPARATIONS FOR THE SIEGE.
_Vicksburg, May 1st, 1863._--Ever since we were deprived of our cave, I
had been dreading that H. would suggest sending me to the country, where
his relatives live. As he could not leave his position and go also without
being conscripted, and as I felt certain an army would get between us, it
was no part of my plan to be obedient. A shell from one of the practicing
mortars brought the point to an issue yesterday and settled it. Sitting at
work as usual, listening to the distant sound of bursting shells,
apparently aimed at the court-house, there suddenly came a nearer
explosion; the house shook, and a tearing sound was followed by terrified
screams from the kitchen. I rushed thither, but met in the hall the cook's
little girl America, bleeding from a wound in the forehead, and fairly
dancing with fright and pain, while she uttered fearful yells. I stopped
to examine the wound, and her mother bounded in, her black face ashy from
terror. "Oh! Miss G., my child is killed and the kitchen tore up." Seeing
America was too lively to have been killed, I consoled Martha and hastened
to the kitchen. Evidently a shell had exploded just outside, sending three
or four pieces through. When order was restored I endeavored to impress on
Martha's mind the uselessness of such excitement. Looking round at the
close of the lecture, there stood a group of Confederate soldiers
laughing heartily at my sermon and the promising audience I had. They
chimed in with a parting chorus:
"Yes, it's no use hollerin', old lady."
"Oh! H.," I exclaimed, as he entered soon after, "America is wounded."
"That is no news; she has been wounded by traitors long ago."
"Oh, this is real, living, little, black America. I am not talking in
symbols. Here are the pieces of shell, the first bolt of the coming
"Now you see," he replied, "that this house will be but paper to
mortar-shells. You must go into the country."
The argument was long, but when a woman is obstinate and eloquent, she
generally conquers. I came off victorious, and we finished preparations
for the siege to-day. Hiring a man to assist, we descended to the
wine-cellar, where the accumulated bottles told of festive hours long
since departed. To empty this cellar was the work of many hours. Then in
the safest corner a platform was laid for our bed, and in another portion
one arranged for Martha. The dungeon, as I call it, is lighted only by a
trap-door, and is very damp. The next question was of supplies. I had
nothing left but a sack of rice-flour, and no manner of cooking I had
heard or invented contrived to make it eatable. A column of recipes for
making delicious preparations of it had been going the rounds of
Confederate papers. I tried them all; they resulted only in brick-bats, or
sticky paste. H. sallied out on a hunt for provisions, and when he
returned the disproportionate quantity of the different articles provoked
a smile. There was a _hogshead_ of sugar, a barrel of sirup, ten pounds of
bacon and pease, four pounds of wheat-flour, and a small sack of
corn-meal, a little vinegar, and actually some spice! The wheat-flour he
purchased for ten dollars as a special favor from the sole remaining
barrel for sale. We decided that must be kept for sickness. The sack of
meal, he said, was a case of corruption, though a special providence to
us. There is no more for sale at any price, but, said he, "a soldier who
was hauling some of the Government sacks to the hospital offered me this
for five dollars, if I could keep a secret. When the meal is exhausted,
perhaps we can keep alive on sugar. Here are some wax candles; hoard them
like gold." He handed me a parcel containing about two pounds of candles,
and left me to arrange my treasures. It would be hard for me to picture
the memories those candles called up. The long years melted away, and I
"Trod again my childhood's track
And felt its very gladness."
In those childish days, whenever came dreams of household splendor or
festal rooms or gay illuminations, the lights in my vision were always wax
candles burning with a soft radiance that enchanted every scene.... And,
lo! here on this spring day of '63, with war raging through the land, I
was in a fine house, and had my wax candles sure enough, but, alas! they
were neither cerulean blue nor rose-tinted, but dirty brown; and when I
lighted one, it spluttered and wasted like any vulgar, tallow thing, and
lighted only a desolate scene in the vast handsome room. They were not so
good as the waxen rope we had made in Arkansas. So, with a long sigh for
the dreams of youth, I return to the stern present in this besieged town,
my only consolation to remember the old axiom, "A city besieged is a city
taken,"--so if we live through it we shall be out of the Confederacy. H.
is very tired of having to carry a pass around in his pocket and go every
now and then to have it renewed. We have been so very free in America,
these restrictions are irksome.
_May 9th, 1863_.--This morning the door-bell rang a startling peal. Martha
being busy; I answered it. An orderly in gray stood with an official
envelope in his hand.
"Who lives here?"
Very imperiously--"Which Mr. L.?"
"Is he here?"
"Where can he be found?"
"At the office of Deputy----."
"I'm not going there. This is an order from General Pemberton for you to
move out of this house in two hours. He has selected it for headquarters.
He will furnish you with wagons.".
"Will he furnish another house also?"
"Of course not."
"Has the owner been consulted?"
"He has not; that is of no consequence; it has been taken. Take this
"I shall not take it, and I shall not move, as there is no place to move
to but the street."
"Then I'll take it to Mr. L."
"Very well, do so."
As soon as Mr. Impertine walked off I locked, bolted, and barred every
door and window. In ten minutes H. came home.
"Hold the fort till I've seen the owner and the general," he said, as I
locked him out.
Then Dr. B.'s remark in New Orleans about the effect of Dr. C.'s fine
presence on the Confederate officials there came to my mind. They are
influenced in that way, I thought; I look rather shabby now, I will dress.
I made an elaborate toilet, put on the best and most becoming dress I had,
the richest lace, the handsomest ornaments, taking care that all should be
appropriate to a morning visit; dressed my hair in the stateliest braids,
and took a seat in the parlor ready for the fray. H. came to the window
"Landlord says, 'Keep them out. Wouldn't let them have his house at any
price.' He is just riding off to the country and can't help us now. Now
I'm going to see Major C, who sent the order."
Next came an officer, banged at the door till tired, and walked away. Then
the orderly came again and beat the door--same result. Next, four officers
with bundles and lunch-baskets, followed by a wagon-load of furniture.
They went round the house, tried every door, peeped in the windows,
pounded and rapped, while I watched them through the blind-slats.
Presently the fattest one, a real Falstaffian man, came back to the front
door and rung a thundering peal. I saw the chance for fun and for putting
on their own grandiloquent style. Stealing on tiptoe to the door, I turned
the key and bolt noiselessly, and suddenly threw wide back the door, and
appeared behind it. He had been leaning on it, and nearly pitched forward
with an "Oh! what's this?" Then seeing me as he straightened up, "Ah,
madam!" almost stuttering from surprise and anger, "are you aware I had
the right to break down this door if you hadn't opened it?"
"That would make no difference to me. I'm not the owner. You or the
landlord would pay the bill for the repairs."
"Why didn't you open the door?"
"Have I not done so as soon as you rung? A lady does not open the door to
men who beat on it. Gentlemen usually ring; I thought it might be
"Well," growing much blander, "we are going to send you some wagons to
move; you must get ready."
"With pleasure, if you have selected a house for me. This is too large; it
does not suit me."
"No, I didn't find a house for you."
"You surely don't expect _me_ to run about in the dust and shelling to
look for it, and Mr. L. is too busy."
"Well, madam, then we must share the house. We will take the lower floor."
"I prefer to keep the lower floor myself; you surely don't expect _me_ to
go up and down stairs when you are so light and more able to do it."
He walked through the hall, trying the doors. "What room is that?"--"The
parlor." "And this?"--"My bedroom." "And this?"--"The dining-room."
"Well, madam, we'll find you a house and then come and take this."
"Thank you, colonel. I shall be ready when you find the house. Good
I heard him say as he ran down the steps, "We must go back, captain; you
see I didn't know they were this kind of people."
Of course the orderly had lied in the beginning to scare me, for General
Pemberton is too far away from Vicksburg to send such an order. He is
looking about for General Grant. We are told he has gone out to meet
Johnston; and together they expect to annihilate Grant's army and free
Vicksburg forever. There is now a general hospital opposite this house and
a small-pox hospital next door. War, famine, pestilence, and fire surround
us. Every day the band plays in front of the small-pox hospital. I wonder
if it is to keep up their spirits? One would suppose quiet would be more
_May 17th, 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
"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
"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.
"Retreat, retreat!" they said, in broken English--they were Louisiana
About 3 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.
THE SIEGE ITSELF.
_May 28th, 1863_.--Since that day the regular siege has continued. We are
utterly cut off from the world, surrounded by a circle of fire. The fiery
shower of shells goes on day and night. H.'s occupation, of course, is
gone, his office closed. Every man has to carry a pass in his pocket.
People do nothing but eat what they can get, sleep when they can, and
dodge the shells. There are three intervals when the shelling stops,
either for the guns to cool or for the gunners' meals, I suppose,--about
eight in the morning, the same in the evening, and at noon. In that time
we have both to prepare and eat ours. Clothing cannot be washed or
anything else done. On the 19th and 22d, when the assaults were made on
the lines, I watched the soldiers cooking on the green opposite. The
half-spent balls coming all the way from those lines were flying so thick
that they were obliged to dodge at every turn. At all the caves I could
see from my high perch, people were sitting, eating their poor suppers at
the cave doors, ready to plunge in again. As the first shell again flew
they dived, and not a human being was visible. The sharp crackle of the
musketry-firing was a strong contrast to the scream of the bombs. I think
all the dogs and cats must be killed or starved, we don't see any more
pitiful animals prowling around.... The cellar is so damp and musty the
bedding has to be carried out and laid in the sun every day, with the
forecast that it may be demolished at any moment. The confinement is
dreadful. To sit and listen as if waiting for death in a horrible manner
would drive me insane. I don't know what others do, but we read when I am
not scribbling in this. H. borrowed somewhere a lot of Dickens's novels,
and we reread them by the dim light in the cellar. When the shelling
abates H. goes to walk about a little or get the "Daily Citizen," which is
still issuing a tiny sheet at twenty-five and fifty cents a copy. It is,
of course, but a rehash of speculations which amuses half an hour. To-day
we heard while out that expert swimmers are crossing the Mississippi on
logs at night to bring and carry news to Johnston. I am so tired of
corn-bread, which I never liked, that I eat it with tears in my eyes. We
are lucky to get a quart of milk daily from a family near who have a cow
they hourly expect to be killed. I send five dollars to market each
morning, and it buys a small piece of mule-meat. Rice and milk is my main
food; I can't eat the mule-meat. We boil the rice and eat it cold with
milk for supper. Martha runs the gauntlet to buy the meat and milk once a
day in a perfect terror. The shells seem to have many different names; I
hear the soldiers say, "That's a mortar-shell. There goes a Parrott.
That's a rifle-shell." They are all equally terrible. A pair of
chimney-swallows have built in the parlor chimney. The concussion of the
house often sends down parts of their nest, which they patiently pick up
and reascend with.
_Friday, June 5th, 1863. (In the cellar.)_--Wednesday evening H. said he
must take a little walk, and went while the shelling had stopped. He never
leaves me alone long, and when an hour had passed without his return I
grew anxious; and when two hours, and the shelling had grown terrific, I
momentarily expected to see his mangled body. All sorts of horrors fill
the mind now, and I am so desolate here; not a friend. When he came he
said that passing a cave where there were no others near, he heard groans,
and found a shell had struck above and caused the cave to fall in on the
man within. He could not extricate him alone, and had to get help and dig
him out. He was badly hurt, but not mortally. I felt fairly sick from the
Yesterday morning a note was brought H. from a bachelor uncle out in the
trenches, saying he had been taken ill with fever, and could we receive
him if he came? H. sent to tell him to come, and I arranged one of the
parlors as a dressing-room for him, and laid a pallet that he could move
back and forth to the cellar. He did not arrive, however. It is our custom
in the evening to sit in the front room a little while in the dark, with
matches and candles held ready in hand, and watch the shells, whose course
at night is shown by the fuse. H. was at the window and suddenly sprang
up, crying, "Run!"--"Where?"--"_Back_!"
I started through the back room, H. after me. I was just within the door
when the crash came that threw me to the floor. It was the most appalling
sensation I'd ever known. Worse than an earthquake, which I've also
experienced. Shaken and deafened I picked myself up; H. had struck a light
to find me. I lighted mine, and the smoke guided us to the parlor I had
fixed for Uncle J. The candles were useless in the dense smoke, and it was
many minutes before we could see. Then we found the entire side of the
room torn out. The soldiers who had rushed in said, "This is an
eighty-pound Parrott." It had entered through the front and burst on the
pallet-bed, which was in tatters; the toilet service and everything else
in the room was smashed. The soldiers assisted H. to board up the break
with planks to keep out prowlers, and we went to bed in the cellar as
usual. This morning the yard is partially plowed by two shells that fell
there in the night. I think this house, so large and prominent from the
river, is perhaps mistaken for headquarters and specially shelled. As we
descend at night to the lower regions, I think of the evening hymn that
grandmother taught me when a child:
"Lord, keep us safe this night,
Secure from all our fears;
May angels guard us while we sleep,
Till morning light appears."
_June 7th, 1863. (In the cellar.)_--I feel especially grateful that amid
these horrors we have been spared that of suffering for water. The weather
has been dry a long time, and we hear of others dipping up the water from
ditches and mud-holes. This place has two large underground cisterns of
good cool water, and every night in my subterranean dressing-room a tub
of cold water is the nerve-calmer that sends me to sleep in spite of the
roar. One cistern I had to give up to the soldiers, who swarm about like
hungry animals seeking something to devour. Poor fellows! my heart bleeds
for them. They have nothing but spoiled, greasy bacon, and bread made of
musty pea-flour, and but little of that. The sick ones can't bolt it. They
come into the kitchen when Martha puts the pan of corn-bread in the stove,
and beg for the bowl she has mixed it in. They shake up the scrapings with
water, put in their bacon, and boil the mixture into a kind of soup, which
is easier to swallow than pea-bread. When I happen in they look so ashamed
of their poor clothes. I know we saved the lives of two by giving a few
meals. To-day one crawled upon the gallery to lie in the breeze. He looked
as if shells had lost their terrors for his dumb and famished misery. I've
taught Martha to make first-rate corn-meal gruel, because I can eat meal
easier that way than in hoe-cake, and I prepared him a saucerful, put milk
and sugar and nutmeg--I've actually got a nutmeg. When he ate it the tears
ran from his eyes. "Oh, madam, there was never anything so good! I shall
_June 9th, 1863_.--The churches are a great resort for those who have no
caves. People fancy they are not shelled so much, and they are substantial
and the pews good to sleep in. We had to leave this house last night, they
were shelling our quarter so heavily. The night before, Martha forsook the
cellar for a church. We went to H.'s office, which was comparatively
quiet last night. H. carried the bank box; I the case of matches; Martha
the blankets and pillows, keeping an eye on the shells. We slept on piles
of old newspapers. In the streets the roar seems so much more confusing, I
feel sure I shall run right into the way of a shell. They seem to have
five different sounds from the second of throwing them to the hollow echo
wandering among the hills, which sounds the most blood-curdling of all.
[Illustration: PRINTED ON WALL PAPER IN THE SIEGE OF VICKSBURG.]
_June 13th, 1863_.--Shell burst just over the roof this morning. Pieces
tore through both floors down into the dining-room. The entire ceiling of
that room fell in a mass. We had just left it. Every piece of crockery on
the table was smashed. The "Daily Citizen" to-day is a foot and a half
long and six inches wide. It has a long letter from a Federal officer, P.
P. Hill, who was on the gun-boat _Cincinnati_, that was sunk May 27th.
Says it was found in his floating trunk. The editorial says, "The utmost
confidence is felt that we can maintain our position until succor comes
from outside. The undaunted Johnston is at hand."
_June 18th_.--To-day the "Citizen" is printed on wall paper; therefore has
grown a little in size. It says, "But a few days more and Johnston will be
here"; also that "Kirby Smith has driven Banks from Port Hudson," and that
"the enemy are throwing incendiary shells in."
_June 20th_.--The gentleman who took our cave came yesterday to invite us
to come to it, because, he said, "it's going to be very bad to-day." I
don't know why he thought so. We went, and found his own and another
family in it; sat outside and watched the shells till we concluded the
cellar was as good a place as that hill-side. I fear the want of good food
is breaking down H. I know from my own feelings of weakness, but mine is
not an American constitution and has a recuperative power that his has
_June 21st, 1863_.--I had gone upstairs to-day during the interregnum to
enjoy a rest on my bed and read the reliable items in the "Citizen," when
a shell burst right outside the window in front of me. Pieces flew in,
striking all round me, tearing down masses of plaster that came tumbling
over me. When H. rushed in I was crawling out of the plaster, digging it
out of my eyes and hair. When he picked up beside my pillow a piece as
large as a saucer, I realized my narrow escape. The window-frame began to
smoke, and we saw the house was on fire. H. ran for a hatchet and I for
water, and we put it out. Another (shell) came crashing near, and I
snatched up my comb and brush and ran down here. It has taken all the
afternoon to get the plaster out of my hair, for my hands were rather
_June 25th_.--A horrible day. The most horrible yet to me, because I've
lost my nerve. We were all in the cellar, when a shell came tearing
through the roof, burst upstairs, and tore up that room, the pieces coming
through both floors down into the cellar. One of them tore open the leg of
H.'s pantaloons. This was tangible proof the cellar was no place of
protection from them. On the heels of this came Mr. J., to tell us that
young Mrs. P. had had her thighbone crushed. When Martha went for the milk
she came back horror-stricken to tell us the black girl there had her arm
taken off by a shell. For the first time I quailed. I do not think people
who are physically brave deserve much credit for it; it is a matter of
nerves. In this way I am constitutionally brave, and seldom think of
danger till it is over; and death has not the terrors for me it has for
some others. Every night I had lain down expecting death, and every
morning rose to the same prospect, without being unnerved. It was for H. I
trembled. But now I first seemed to realize that something worse than
death might come; I might be crippled, and not killed. Life, without all
one's powers and limbs, was a thought that broke down my courage. I said
to H., "You must get me out of this horrible place; I cannot stay; I know
I shall be crippled." Now the regret comes that I lost control, for H. is
worried, and has lost his composure, because my coolness has broken down.
_July 1st, 1863._--Some months ago, thinking it might be useful, I
obtained from the consul of my birthplace, by sending to another town, a
passport for foreign parts. H. said if we went out to the lines we might
be permitted to get through on that. So we packed the trunk, got a
carriage, and on the 30th drove out there. General V. offered us seats in
his tent. The rifle-bullets were whizzing so _zip, zip_ from the
sharp-shooters on the Federal lines that involuntarily I moved on my
chair. He said, "Don't be alarmed; you are out of range. They are firing
at our mules yonder." His horse, tied by the tent door, was quivering all
over, the most intense exhibition of fear I'd ever seen in an animal.
General V. sent out a flag of truce to the Federal headquarters, and while
we waited wrote on a piece of silk paper a few words. Then he said, "My
wife is in Tennessee. If you get through the lines, give her this. They
will search you, so I will put it in this toothpick." He crammed the silk
paper into a quill toothpick, and handed it to H. It was completely
concealed. The flag-of-truce officer came back flushed and angry. "General
Grant says that no human being shall pass out of Vicksburg; but the lady
may feel sure danger will soon be over. Vicksburg will surrender on the
"Is that so, general?" inquired H. "Are arrangements for surrender made?"
"We know nothing of the kind. Vicksburg will not surrender."
"Those were General Grant's exact words, sir," said the flag-officer. "Of
course it is nothing but their brag."
We went back sadly enough, but to-day H. says he will cross the river to
General Porter's lines and try there; I shall not be disappointed.
_July 3d, 1863._--H. was going to headquarters for the requisite pass, and
he saw General Pemberton crawling out of a cave, for the shelling has been
as hot as ever. He got the pass, but did not act with his usual caution,
for the boat he secured was a miserable, leaky one--a mere trough. Leaving
Martha in charge, we went to the river, had our trunks put in the boat,
and embarked; but the boat became utterly unmanageable, and began to fill
with water rapidly. H. saw that we could not cross it and turned to come
back; yet in spite of that the pickets at the battery fired on us. H.
raised the white flag he had, yet they fired again, and I gave a cry of
horror that none of these dreadful things had wrung from me. I thought H.
was struck. When we landed H. showed the pass, and said that the officer
had told him the battery would be notified we were to cross. The officer
apologized and said they were not notified. He furnished a cart to get us
home, and to-day we are down in the cellar again, shells flying as thick
as ever. Provisions are so nearly gone, except the hogshead of sugar, that
a few more days will bring us to starvation indeed. Martha says rats are
hanging dressed in the market for sale with mule meat,--there is nothing
else. The officer at the battery told me he had eaten one yesterday. We
have tried to leave this Tophet and failed, and if the siege continues I
must summon that higher kind of courage--moral bravery--to subdue my fears
of possible mutilation.
_July 4th, 1863_.--It is evening. All is still. Silence and night are once
more united. I can sit at the table in the parlor and write. Two candles
are lighted. I would like a dozen. We have had wheat supper and wheat
bread once more. H. is leaning back in the rocking-chair; he says:
"G., it seems to me I can hear the silence, and feel it too. It wraps me
like a soft garment; how else can I express this peace?"
But I must write the history of the last twenty-four hours. About five
yesterday afternoon, Mr. J., H.'s assistant, who, having no wife to keep
him in, dodges about at every change and brings us the news, came to H.
"Mr. L., you must both come to our cave to-night. I hear that to-night the
shelling is to surpass anything yet. An assault will be made in front and
rear. You know we have a double cave; there is room for you in mine, and
mother and sister will make a place for Mrs. L. Come right up; the ball
will open about seven."
We got ready, shut up the house, told Martha to go to the church again if
she preferred it to the cellar, and walked up to Mr. J.'s. When supper was
eaten, all secure, and the ladies in their cave night toilet, it was just
six, and we crossed the street to the cave opposite. As I crossed a mighty
shell flew screaming over my head. It was the last thrown into Vicksburg.
We lay on our pallets waiting for the expected roar, but no sound came
except the chatter from the neighboring caves, and at last we dropped
asleep. I woke at dawn stiff. A draught from the funnel-shaped opening had
been blowing on me all night. Every one was expressing surprise at the
quiet. We started for home and met the editor of the "Daily Citizen." H.
"This is strangely quiet, Mr. L."
"Ah, sir," shaking his head gloomily, "I'm afraid the last shell has been
thrown into Vicksburg."
"Why do you fear so?"
"It is surrender. At six last evening a man went down to the river and
blew a truce signal; the shelling stopped at once."
When I entered the kitchen a soldier was there waiting for the bowl of
scrapings. (They took turns for it.)
"Good-morning, madam," he said; "we won't bother you much longer. We can't
thank you enough for letting us come, for getting this soup boiled has
helped some of us to keep alive, but now all this is over."
"Is it true about the surrender?"
"Yes; we have had no official notice, but they are paroling out at the
lines now, and the men in Vicksburg will never forgive Pemberton. An old
granny! A child would have known better than to shut men up in this cursed
trap to starve to death like useless vermin." His eyes flashed with an
insane fire as he spoke. "Haven't I seen my friends carted out three or
four in a box, that had died of starvation! Nothing else, madam! Starved
to death because we had a fool for a general."
"Don't you think you're rather hard on Pemberton? He thought it his duty
to wait for Johnston."
"Some people may excuse him, ma'am, but we'll curse him to our dying day.
Anyhow, you'll see the blue-coats directly."
Breakfast dispatched, we went on the upper gallery. The street was
deserted, save by a few people carrying home bedding from their caves.
Among these was a group taking home a little creature, born in a cave a
few days previous, and its wan-looking mother. About 11 o'clock a man in
blue came sauntering along, looking about curiously. Then two followed
him, then another.
"H., do you think these can be the Federal soldiers?"
"Why, yes; here come more up the street."
Soon a group appeared on the court-house hill, and the flag began slowly
to rise to the top of the staff. As the breeze caught it, and it sprang
out like a live thing exultant, H. drew a long breath of contentment.
"Now I feel once more at home in my own country."
In an hour more a grand rush of people set in toward the river,--foremost
among them the gentleman who took our cave; all were flying as if for
"What can this mean, H.? Are the populace turning out to greet the
"Oh," said H., springing up, "look! It is the boats coming around the
Truly, it was a fine spectacle to see that fleet of transports sweep
around the curve and anchor in the teeth of the batteries so lately
vomiting fire. Presently Mr. J. passed and called:
"Aren't you coming, Mr. L.? There's provisions on those boats: coffee and
flour. 'First come, first served,' you know."
"Yes, I'll be there pretty soon," replied H.
But now the new-comers began to swarm into our yard, asking H. if he had
coin to sell for greenbacks. He had some, and a little bartering went on
with the new greenbacks. H. went out to get provisions. When he returned a
Confederate officer came with him. H. went to the box of Confederate money
and took out four hundred dollars, and the officer took off his watch, a
plain gold one, and laid it on the table, saying, "We have not been paid,
and I must get home to my family." H. added a five-dollar greenback to the
pile, and wished him a happy meeting. The townsfolk continued to dash
through the streets with their arms full, canned goods predominating.
Towards five Mr. J. passed again. "Keep on the lookout," he said; "the
army of occupation is coming along," and in a few minutes the head of the
column appeared. What a contrast to the suffering creatures we had seen so
long were these stalwart, well-fed men, so splendidly set up and
accoutered! Sleek horses, polished arms, bright plumes,--this was the
pride and panoply of war. Civilization, discipline, and order seemed to
enter with the measured tramp of those marching columns; and the heart
turned with throbs of added pity to the worn men in gray, who were being
blindly dashed against this embodiment of modern power. And now this
"silence that is golden" indeed is over all, and my limbs are unhurt, and
I suppose if I were Catholic, in my fervent gratitude, I would hie me with
a rich offering to the shrine of "our Lady of Mercy."
_July 7th, 1863_.--I did not enjoy quiet long. First came Martha, who
announced her intention of going to search for her sons, as she was free
now. I was hardly able to stand since the severe cold taken in the cave
that night, but she would not wait a day. A colored woman came in wanting
a place, and said she had asked her mistress for wages and her mistress
had turned her out. I was in no condition to stand upon ceremony then, and
engaged her at once, but hear to-day that I am thoroughly pulled to pieces
in Vicksburg circles; there is no more salvation for me. Next came two
Federal officers and wanted rooms and board. To have some protection was a
necessity; both armies were still in town, and for the past three days
every Confederate soldier I see has a cracker in his hand. There is hardly
any water in town, no prospect of rain, and the soldiers have emptied one
cistern in the yard already and begun on the other. The colonel put a
guard at the gate to limit the water given. Next came the owner of the
house and said we must move; he wanted the house, but it was so big he'd
just bring his family in; we could stay till we got one. They brought
boarders with them too, and children. Men are at work all over the house
shoveling up the plaster before repairing. Upstairs they are pouring it by
bucketfuls through the windows. Colonel D. brought work for H. to help
with from headquarters. Making out the paroles and copying them has taken
so long they wanted help. I am surprised and mortified to find that
two-thirds of all the men who have signed made their mark; they cannot
write. I never thought there was so much ignorance in the South. One of
the men at headquarters took a fancy to H. and presented him with a
portfolio, that he said he had captured when the Confederates evacuated
their headquarters at Jackson. It contained mostly family letters written
in French, and a few official papers. Among them was the following note,
which I will copy here, and file away the original as a curiosity when the
war is over.
HEADQUARTERS DEPT. OF TENN.
TUPELO, AUG 6, 1862.
Capt.: The Major-General Commanding directs me to say that he submits it
altogether to your own discretion whether you make the attempt to capture
General Grant or not. While the exploit would be very brilliant if
successful, you must remember that failure might be disastrous to you and
your men. The General commends your activity and energy and expects you to
continue to show these qualities.
I am, very respectfully, yr. obt. svt.
_Thomas L. Snead, A.A.G._
CAPT. GEO. L. BAXTER,
Commanding Beaureguard Scouts.
I would like to know if he tried it and came to grief or abandoned the
project. As letters can now get through to New Orleans, I wrote there.
_July 14th, 1863_.--Moved yesterday into a house I call "Fair Rosamond's
bower" because it would take a clue of thread to go through it without
getting lost. One room has five doors opening into the house, and no
windows. The stairs are like ladders, and the colonel's contraband valet
won't risk his neck taking down water, but pours it through the windows on
people's heads. We shan't stay in it. Men are at work closing up the
caves; they had become hiding-places for trash. Vicksburg is now like one
vast hospital--every one is getting sick or is sick. My cook was taken
to-day with bilious fever, and nothing but will keeps me up.
_July 23d, 1863_.--We moved again two days ago.
_Aug. 20_.--Sitting in my easy chair to-day, looking out upon a grassy
slope of the hill in the rear of this house, I have looked over this
journal as if in a dream; for since the last date sickness and sorrow have
been with me. I feel as if an angry wave had passed over me bearing away
strength and treasure. For on one day there came to me from New Orleans
the news of Mrs. B.'s death, a friend whom no tie of blood could have made
nearer. The next day my beautiful boy ended his brief life of ten days and
died in my arms. My own illness caused him to perish; the fatal cold in
the cave was the last straw that broke down strength. The colonel's sweet
wife has come, and I do not lack now for womanly companionship. She says
that with such a pre-natal experience perhaps death was the best for him.
I try to think so, and to be glad that H. has not been ill, though I see
the effects. This book is exhausted, and I wonder whether there will be
more adventures by flood and field to cause me to begin another.
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