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.
Stone began October 1862 with seething bitterness. Lee’s invasion of Maryland failed to rouse Southern sentiment, and his fruitless face-off with Federal forces under George McClellan produced one of the bloodiest days in U.S. history. It also inspired President Abraham Lincoln to issue his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (Lincoln had been advised to unveil it only after a Union victory, though Antietam was closer to a horrific non-defeat).
The demands of a wartime economy quickly stripped the rudimentary Southern economic infrastructure of textiles, and Stone’s journal reflected her growing concerns over the lack of proper clothes, though her concerns should be kept in perspective. She was part of the South’s upper class and probably more sensitive to the lack of luxurious items than regular farmers or Southern citydwellers, particularly when she found herself having to sew fundamental garments for herself and her family, as opposed to casually knitting a fanciful scarf or plaiting a hat for a handsome beau. Nevertheless, her fretting and complaining offers an interesting and at least well-written perspective on the fundamental social and economic changes felt on the Southern home front. The intensity of those changes would quickly intensify in the coming months.
Oct. 1, 1862
The most important fact is Lincoln’s proclamation freeing all slaves held by rebel masters after January 1. I wonder what will be the result of this diabolical move. Surely not as bad for us as they intend it to be. I think there is little chance of a happy hereafter for President Lincoln. A thousand years of repentance would be but brief time to wipe out his sins against the South. How can he ever sleep with the shades of the thousands he has consigned to a bloody death darkening his soul?
We see … that Lt. Floyd was killed at Sharpsburg. My Brother, I know, is sorry. I saw him last spring in Vicksburg. My good wishes for his safe return were fruitless. He was desperately wounded in the battles before Richmond, but recovered only in time to march to meet his death in Maryland. In Kentucky some hearts are aching for him. He was a frank, pleasant comrade and friend.
There is great disappointment over Maryland. It was thought there would be a great uprising of the people as soon as the Stars and Bars should wave across the Potomac, but nothing of the kind. There has been but little enthusiasm and few recruits. Well, let the Old Bay State go, if her people had rather be slaves in the Union than masters in the Confederacy. They must abide by their choice.
The gunboats are expected down now any day to renew the attack on Vicksburg, but if we get Cincinnati and Louisville as we are threatening to do now, the gunboats will be needed in other waters. …
My fingers have been busy with unaccustomed work today, the work of olden times, learning to weave. Mamma is having a loom made to weave cloth for the Negroes, and Jimmy and I are to make the “harness.” Mr. Curry came over early this morning on purpose to teach us. He said he knew I could soon learn it. To keep my reputation for aptness, I commenced work at once under his tutelage, and as it takes two to work it Jimmy learned also. Now we progress swimmingly, though it will take several days to finish it. It is like going back to the days of the Revolution to see the planters all setting up their looms and the ladies discussing the making of homespun dresses, the best dyes, and “cuts” of thread, though yet awhile I think a homespun dress would be more difficult to get than a silk. …
We expect to suffer for clothes this winter. … Unless we capture some Northern city well stocked, there will soon be no dry goods in the Confederacy. The ladies are raising a cry for calicoes and silks that echoes from the Potomac to the Gulf. …
We were out to see Mrs. Carson and Mrs. Savage. They are expecting the Yankees all the time. Mrs. Carson feels that they are being imposed on by soldiers and travelers. She says they are nearly eaten out of house and home, and she gave us her bill of fare. It certainly is a great falling off from the past abundance. There are always five or six soldiers there. She still has flour for lightbread, but it is saved for the sick soldiers. They are exceedingly kind and helpful to all wearing the uniform.
Mrs. Carson is going into raptures over Col. Pargoud. He has large plantations near Monroe, is young and splendid looking, was educated in France, has elegant manners, and is a Colonel in full cavalry uniform, the finest to be had ivory stirrups, silver trappings, and superb horses. What more could one have? May it be given to me to meet this paragon before some other girl snatches him up. Capt. Harper’s company is in his regiment.
We saw the paper of the fourth. It advocates raising the Black Flag in retaliation for Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation. Such a war is too horrible to think of.
A letter from Uncle Bo dated a month back just as his division was crossing into Maryland. He writes jubilantly, so glad to be advancing into the enemy’s country. The letter is filled with praise of My Brother. … How dreadfully disappointed the army and officials are that Maryland did not rally to their support when once they were on her soil.
Now after all those bloody battles with no good result to follow, our whole army has recrossed the Potomac. Our defeat at Corinth is rumored. We are anxious for full particulars. Reinforcements from Vicksburg have been sent on. …
Mamma and I went down to Vicksburg ten days ago with Brother Walter to see him that far on his way to the war. We hoped also to see Brother Coley, having heard his regiment had been ordered to Vicksburg, but we were disappointed. The regiment marched through the county to Panola County. We do not know their destination. …
Mrs. Amis’ place is the frontier now, with no one between her and DeSoto. The entire country from Omega to Vicksburg is deserted and many of the back places also. There is a constant stream of men passing, and Mrs. Amis is dreadfully worried by men begging to stay all night and for meals. It is a charming place to visit. Annie has changed less in growing up than any girl I ever saw. She is the same girl she was ten years ago, only grown up and not the least affected, and as a child she was a bundle of it. She was at school in Philadelphia for several years and last in New Orleans for a few months. She plays beautifully on the piano, with such ease I can listen by the hour. She plays on the harp, speaks French well, knows some Latin and Spanish, and is fond of reading, though there was little reading she would allow either of us while together. And they have a good library which was very tempting. She is a pronounced blonde. We were both glad to be together again as we were when little children, after our long separation at different schools.
Saturday was a day of general upheaval having the carpets put down and general renovating. A cold raw day. When in the height of the discomfort, Mrs. Payne, Julia, and Miss Carrie Lowry were announced. … Carrie is a very talkative, nice girl with only one good feature in her face, splendid grey eyes. She escapes being ugly. She has pretty teeth and glossy black hair but a most unbecoming mouth and nose. Am sure we would like her much on closer acquaintance. She is a most industrious, capable girl.
Jimmy went to Mississippi today to get leather to make shoes for the Negroes. Should he fail to get it, the Negroes will certainly suffer in the cold. Mamma has discharged Mr. McRae, and a Mr. Blakely is overseeing. Mr. McRae proved to be utterly destitute of principle. The Negroes are busy housing the potatoes and goober peas [peanuts] and priming the sugar cane. We shall have some cane should My Brother come now. …