From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.
As the violence of war in 1862 grew closer to Brokenburn, the reliable and steady lines of communication with the outside world were disrupted. One by one, the array of Northern and Southern newspapers the Stone family — particularly Kate — regularly read stopped coming, and the Union campaigns to control the Mississippi River disrupted river boat traffic that carried precious letters and telegrams from Stone’s brother and uncle, both Confederate soldiers, amid other family news. So Stone’s active imagination was left to wonder, imagine, and hope that more victories over the North would be secured.
Stone yearned to join the men’s war. Note how spiteful she is of men who stay home instead of joining the army.
Monday school started in My Brother’s room, and I go on with French under Mr. Stenckrath. He is to hear me after supper. I have been staying in Mamma’s room lately. Now, she, Sister, and Frank are all sound asleep, and I have just finished my French exercises. Mr. Stenkrath is a splendid teacher and likes his profession. He seems just the man for the boys. He seems to have a restless nature. From his confused account of himself, he has had a roving life, seldom staying more than a few months at a place, and so we need not expect to keep him long.
No mails for two weeks, the boat laid up for repairs.
The news for the last few days gathered from extras and dailies is bitterly disappointing: Forts Henry and Donelson given up, Bowling Green evacuated and shelled and burned by the enemy, and the Northern hordes marching on Nashville. Four days ago the people were leaving, and the town was being shelled by the gunboats. We do not care for those Kentucky towns; they deserve their fate. But Nashville, so true to the South, is a different matter. I know Dr. Elliott’s school will suffer. He is such an ardent Southerner. I graduated there. An excellent school it is.
It is a gloomy outlook just now but … victory will be ours at last.
Nothing from Cousin Titia and Jenny, and we looked for them today. There is no communication with Vicksburg; it might be under blockade for what we hear.
Mamma has finished the silk quilt, octagons of blue and yellow satin from two of her old dresses. Sister claims it. Aunt Laura’s, of purple and blue silk, is done and is exceedingly pretty. She has had several comforts made during the bad weather, and it has been so bad. I have about finished Beverly’s second apron, blue and white scallops with a bunch of heartsease embroidered in front and cute little pockets, also embroidered.
Nashville has not yet fallen. Our army, 80,000 strong, is encamped around the city and the enemy is marching up, 250,000 of them, to battle. The general impression is that both Nashville and Memphis are doomed, and the Yankee gunboats will then descend the Mississippi and get all the cotton they can steal.
Brother Coley went to the last drill today at Willow Bayou. The company is broken up. There have been calls from the governors of all the river states for all the able-bodied men to come forward. Every man is speaking of joining the army, and we fear within a week Brother Coley will away.
In the present sad conditions of affairs traitors are springing up in every direction, as plentiful and busy as frogs in a marsh. I would not trust any man now who stays at home instead of going out to fight for his country.
I am tired. I have been so busy. Have read several hours French and English, sewed, practiced, written a letter, entertained Mr. Stockton for a time, played nine games of cards, eaten three meals and a luncheon, learned and recited four French lessons, and written all this. Surely it is bedtime.
We had a surprising piece of family news this morning. Either Cousin Jenny or Cousin Titia was married a week ago today. We do not know which. Mr. Stockton mentioned it incidentally in the course of conversation, and after our surprised queries, he told us all he knew. He said that one of the young ladies was married at Dr. Buckner’s by Mr. Lord to a Tennessee soldier, name unknown, and started off next morning up the river. He did not know where. We are wild for particulars. Cannot tell why they have not let us know all about it.
Mr. Kaiser is off to the war and without bidding us good-bye. Mamma is trying to get a situation for Mr. Stockton and in the meanwhile is doctoring him up with all kinds of strong, hot medicines to make him well enough to accept a place should he get it. He has a horrid cold, and the poor fellow is perfectly obedient to Mamma. He takes all her doses without a murmur. Mr. Neily wishes a teacher, and Brother Coley went to see him this morning. He offers only $500. It is for his grandchildren. Mamma wrote also to Mrs. Savage and Mr. Harris, but neither wish a teacher just now. Anna writes Mrs. Savage has given out the idea of a large wedding. Only the families are to be present. Mamma sent Rose a lovely pincushion. Mrs. McRae is still very ill. Mamma spent part of the night there. I played three-handed euchre with Mr. Stockton and Mr. Stenckrath until, as the boys say, I am “dead beat.”
News of a victory for us in Missouri in which Gen. Sigel, a German Yankee, was killed. All other tidings are gloomy but they have aroused the country with a trumpet call. There is the greatest excitement throughout the country. Almost everyone is going and going at once. Men are flocking to Johnston’s standard by the thousands. They are not waiting to form companies, but are going to join those already in the field. Every man gets ready as soon as he can possibly do so, makes his way to the river, hails the first upward bound boat, and is off to join in the fight at Nashville. The whole country is awake and on the watch think and talk only of war.
Robert came out this evening to consult with Brother Coley. He wants to go in the same company. But Brother Coley went to Vicksburg this morning to consult Dr. Buckner as to the best company for him to join. Robert is very low-spirited but determined on going. He says he knows he will never return. I like him very much and will be sorry to tell him good-bye. Mamma received a letter from Dr. Buckner today. He expects to leave with his company in two or three days and wrote for Brother Coley and Brother Walter. His is a cavalry company.
It was Cousin Titia who was married. We do not know to whom. They left for camp at Columbus, Miss.
Our first mail for three weeks. Numbers of letters — a grieved one from Kate and an old one from My Brother. Cousin Titia married Mr. Charles Frazer, a lawyer of Memphis. They have been engaged for some time but it was an unexpected marriage. He got a furlough, came to Vicksburg, and insisted on being married, and so they were and went on to camp together at Columbus, Miss. Cousin Titia wrote to Mamma and tried to telegraph.