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Kate Stone’s Civil War: A horrid flight

June 6, 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)

Something has happened. Stone refers to a “horrid flight from home” but the memory is still too raw for her to discuss. All she can admit to is shame and shock over where her family has found themselves: afraid, adrift, refugees in their own country, and reliant on the kindness of friends and strangers for clothing, shelter, and food.

Note Stone’s mention of “skiffs.” The region’s levees were breached or damaged, and floodwaters were everywhere.

April 15, 1863

Anchorage, La.

Tomorrow at daybreak we leave here on our way to Monroe [La.]. This has been but a resting place on our journey to the unknown. At Mr. Templeton’s on Bayou Macon, we will take a flat for Delhi where we will take the cars for Monroe. We hope to reach there sometime during the night. Jimmy has secured two rooms for us at a Mr. Deane’s in the hills four miles from Monroe, across the Ouachita. These are Mamma’s plans if she can carry them through, but everything is uncertain from the getting of the flat to the rent of the rooms. No plans are fixed in these troublesome times. “First come, first served” is the motto. Engagements stand for nothing.

But we must certainly leave here, as we have trespassed on these kind friends for two weeks. Now, they are preparing to move on themselves, and we would surely be in the way. They have been exceedingly kind. No relatives could have been kinder, and Dr. Carson even wants to send us down to Delhi in one of his skiffs, a trip of two days. He is in all the hurry and bustle of moving not only his own family but several hundred Negroes, his own and those belonging to the large Bailey estate, for which he is executor. The more I see of Dr. Carson the more I am impressed with the beauty and nobility of his character. He has a tremendous undertaking before him, so many women and children to be moved and sheltered, and he feels deeply the responsibility.

Mamma will not take advantage of his kindness about the skiff. We will get down the Macon from Col. Templeton’s someway. Mrs. Carson has given Sister a complete suit of Katie’s clothes, as Sister, in our escape from home, got off with only the clothes she had on. She and Katie are the same size, and the clothes fit nicely. She has also given me a pair of nice gaiters such as it would be impossible to buy in the Confederacy. As I have only a pair of old half-worn shoes and can get no more, they are most acceptable. Mamma will get mourning for Sister in Monroe, if possible. We feel that black should be our only wear.

Mrs. Carson and the children will follow us to Monroe in a few days, and we have all planned to go out to Texas together, camping out. “Times change and men change with them” — trite but true. A year ago would we have thought of receiving, or of a friend offering, clothes as a present? Now we are as pleased to receive a half-worn garment from a friend as the veriest beggar that goes from door to door. How else shall we cover our nakedness? We have lost all and as yet can buy nothing. A year ago would we have thought of going even to the house of a friend to spend some time without an invitation? And tomorrow we are all going seven of us with bag and baggage (very little of that, though) to stay an indefinite time with a lady we have seen only once, and without any invitation, trusting only that, as she is a lady, she will be kind to us in our distress. We are going to Col. Templeton’s to wait there until we can get transportation down the Macon. …

Before leaving here, we wrote to our two boys and Uncle Bo. My heart was too full for a careless letter. I could only think of Brother Walter. But we know how anxious they are about us all, and writing is all we can do for them. So we wrote as cheerfully as we could. We would not add to their hardships. Brother Coley wrote that they were doing as hard service as was possible for men. And my heart aches for the delicate young fellow, trying his strength to the utmost. He seems almost as far from us as Brother Walter, and I have almost as little hope of seeing him again. Not a word from My Brother since he left.

I have had no heart to write of our horrid flight from home but will someday when anchored somewhere.

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