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Kate Stone’s Civil War: A lady’s favors

January 25, 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)

Two excerpts from Stone’s November 1862 diary illustrate her views on love, flirtation, and relationships, each vibrant and beautiful even in the shadow of a growing war.

Nov. 7, 1862

How quickly this week has slipped away. Company and busy hands make the time fly. Anna came out in the middle of the week, sent the little girls and remained until Mrs. Savage came, spent the day and carried her home. After they left, Johnny and I were sitting cosily by the parlor fire. I had been practicing and he was knitting on a glove when in came Mary Richards and Mollie Hunt, an old schoolmate. I was so surprised I hardly knew her at first, but the sound of her voice recalled old school times.

Mollie and her father are on their way from Arkansas to Vicksburg. They had supper at Mrs. Curry’s and came out to get me to spend the night with Mollie. Mamma approved of the plan, and I was glad of a chance for a good chat with Mollie. I went back with them and had a pleasant visit in spite of that hateful Mr. Smith. “Don’t be bashful, Kate. Do play. I ain’t a going to court ye” was one of his trying speeches, with a grin and a leer that made me really wish him dumb. What a true Yankee he is in everything, even the set of his coat.

Mollie gave me a full and particular account of her various love affairs, about like the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out. She would not tell me the names of any of her lovers. She must have had scores. She says she has four on hand now, all waiting in trembling apprehension of yes or no. She thinks she will say no to all. What a garment of comfort self-satisfaction is. Oh, for a nice large cloak of self-appreciation. …

Galveston has fallen, a disgrace to us for fortifying it so badly. The enemy are redoubling their exertions at every point and are awaiting a rise in the river to make an overwhelming attack on Vicksburg. In God alone is our trust.

Nov. 10

Mamma went to Vicksburg today, and I am left at home as commander-in-chief with Little Sister and the two boys, Johnny and Jimmy, as aides. We are getting on bravely today, pickle making, weaving, etc., etc. I think I should like keeping house if I were forty years old and had no one to interfere, but now it is horrid work, vanity and vexation of spirits. …

Ah, the lovely autumn weather. One should be out in it riding or walking most of the day. …

Mamma and I went out to Mrs. Henderson’s Saturday morning to see Mrs. Gustine, who is staying there now. She has been very ill and is still unable to be up. Mary and I had a gay talk discussing Col. Pargoud. We have all our traps set and baited should he venture out here again. We made an agreement so that no feeling of jealousy should mar our friendship. Should I trap the irresistible Colonel, she is to be invited to spend a month at his “palace.” Should she be the successful trapper, I am to have a standing invitation to “his marble halls.” Poor Colonel. His cheeks must burn the way the girls are discussing his fancied perfections, for not a girl of us has ever seen him. He is our standing joke.

We also agreed on Mr. Valentine’s cool assurance in sending word to all the girls he knows to knit him everything they can think of. He wants a complete outfit from each one. He did have the grace to ask Mary to make the things, and she has started on the article the easiest to make, a needle book. But if he does not soon repeat his call, Mary will donate that to some more deserving youth. None of us will do anything for him just now. He needs a little judicious snubbing. He holds a lady’s favors too lightly. In the early days I used to think he would make quite an ideal lover, but no indeed, not now that I know him better. He would run me crazy and ruin my temper in a week. He is very argumentative and I feel like contradicting him always. We do not think alike on any subject. Neither Anna nor Julia like him at all, and Mary knows him only slightly.

Mr. McRae was nursing Ashburn on his death bed a year ago tonight, and now he too is sinking into the cold arms of Death. In the presence of Death, we feel at its fullest God’s terrible power. …

  1. This is unique. Hoe did you get access to this diary? Is it in a book?

  2. The diary, “Brokenburn,” is easily found in libraries and bookstores. Every blog post that shares excerpts from this book includes at the top a link to an online version of the diary.

  3. Joanne Yeck permalink

    Kate Stone’s diary is a treasure. I discovered it because she crossed paths with one of my Harris family members who held land in both central Virginia and Louisiana. The book is in print and, now, I’m delighted to learn that there is a digital version and that you are posting excerpts. Carry on!

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