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Kate Stone’s Civil War: The sleep that knows no waking

January 9, 2013


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.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Stone mourns the loss of a dear friend to marriage, “Beast” Butler’s proclamations from conquered New Orleans outrage her, the weakened levee nearby worries her, and a bear frightens and exhilarates everyone. It’s been a year since her beloved brother and uncle left for the front, and her sadness casts a shadow over Brokenburn’s springtime blooms.

May 23

Have heard of my darling Katie’s marriage. Who would have thought after our long close intimacy that I would hear of her wedding only by accident. I know she has written me everything but no letters come now. So have passed our dreams of sisterhood. I hope, oh how I hope, she has been able to forget the old love and is content with the new. May my dear girl be happy. God bless her and hers. I shall miss her out of my life, my dearest girl friend. How it will affect My Brother I can hardly say, but I have thought of late he had given up his love dream and was willing to take the dismissal he forced upon her. …

The gunboats have been at Vicksburg for a week and have secured their answer to the demand to surrender some days ago, but there has been no bombardment. What we heard was the artillery men trying their guns.

In the Whig is Butler’s last infamous proclamation. It seems that the openly expressed scorn and hatred of the New Orleans women for Butler’s vandal hordes has so exasperated him that he issues this proclamation: That henceforth if any female by word, look, or gesture, shall insult any of his soldiers, the soldier shall have perfect liberty to do with her as he pleases. Could any order be more infamous? It is but carrying out the battle cry ‘Bounty and Beauty’ with which they started for New Orleans. May he not long pollute the soil of Louisiana.

The levee is still very insecure with the river rising and the rains bad on it. Many plantation hands are at work on it all the time, and the owners [are] watching it anxiously. We are almost overflowed from rain water as the ditches had to be stopped to keep out backwater. …

May 25

Everything shines out bright and fair in the spring sunshine after the gloom of the last few days. The flowers wave and glisten most invitingly across the grass beyond the shadows of the great oaks, but it is too wet to venture over Nature’s carpeting of soft, green grass. This evening we may plan what we please. The levees having stood so far we think will stand faithfully to the end. They have certainly been found faithful among few. …

May 26

Old Mr. Valentine is very despondent, foretelling the most abject poverty and starvation for the whole country. He came over to try and induce Mamma to have all the cotton plowed up in order to plant corn and to beg her not to let Brother Walter go to Vicksburg. … He has made himself very unpopular by his bitter opposition to the cotton burning and by not allowing his son to join the army. There is no doubt he should go at once. Some actually think Mr. Valentine is in favor of our enemies and advocate hanging him by mob law. A most unjust report and utterly without foundation. I suppose his being of Northern birth increases the prejudice. …

In the afternoon there was a cry raised that there was a bear in the cane. The boys with their dogs and guns turned out in force, assisted by Mr. McRae, Ben Clarkson, as did all the Negroes who could get mules, while the others armed themselves with axes and sticks and cautiously approached the outskirts. The excitement ran high and we at the house had full benefit as it was in the canebrake just back of the yard. We could hear the barking of the dogs, the reports of the guns, and the cries and shouts of the whole party. It was very exhilirating. They returned in the highest state of excitement but without the bear. They went out next morning but with no better success. …

May 28

Yesterday evening and far into the night we heard the roar of cannonading more distinct and rapid than ever heard before. It must be at Vicksburg. Today all is quiet. One understands after hearing the long rolling booms how deafening it must be on a battlefield. …

The river is falling all the way down.nd we are saved from overflow this year.

Papers and letters this evening, a month old.

May 30

We have a paper of the twenty-seventh. It brings the good news of a battle or surprise by Stonewall Jackson at Winchester and Front Royal and the capture of all the stores at the former place and many prisoners. All the news is rather encouraging. We are holding our own at Fort Pillow. At Corinth the enemy are reported in retreat to their gunboats which, now that the Tennessee River is falling, they are compelled to get out at once. All is well in Virginia. And nearer home at Vicksburg there is nothing to discourage us. The slight shelling did no harm, and the soldiers are full of hope and anxious for the Yankees to land to give them the “worst beating they ever had in their lives. …”

My Brother and Uncle Bo have been gone just a year and what a year of changes. Nature smiles as bright and fair now as under the May sun of a year ago, but where are all “the loved ones who filled our home with glee?” Four of the dear familiar faces are absent. One sleeps the sleep that knows no waking. For him we have no more fear or trouble, for we know he has passed from Death into Life that. … But oh, the weary days of waiting and watching for the other three.

Jimmy brought us two recent letters from My Brother. He encloses some violets gathered from the old trenches around Yorktown, dug there by Washington’s army. His tent stands just where Cornwallis gave up his sword. What supreme satisfaction if McClellan could be induced to do the same thing at the same place. They say history repeats itself. My Brother takes a most elderly brother tone regarding Tom Manlove’s love affairs. Four months ago Tom was desperate about Miss Eva, and now Miss Flora reigns sole empress of his heart for the next month. But My Brother need not be critical, as he is not so constant himself. He so regrets leaving Uncle Bo. They are now in different commands. He is anxious to get his clothes and speaks confidently of coming home. …

  1. faithanncolburn permalink

    Painful reading, especially in view of the outcome we know but Ms Stone did not.

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