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.
By late April 1863, Kate Stone, still too weary to explain how or why her family evacuated their Louisiana plantation, grappled with the harsh realities of her new existence. She marveled at fellow Southern refugees’ desperate attempts to retain their small comforts of life in the midst of war. She viewed slaves — freed, armed, and empowered — as a far greater threat than the Union troops that swarmed over the flooded region. Nothing disgusted her more than her family’s slaves taking control of Brokenburn, the family plantation.
Near Monroe, La.
We have reached this place of refuge three weeks after deserting our home. We have come by short but not easy stages. Wednesday we left Dr. Carson’s Anchorage place at sunrise, going in skiffs to Mr. Templeton’s only a few miles and hoping to catch Mr. Gaddis’ boat. The boat had gone on, and Mr. and Mrs. Templeton begged us to stay with them until Friday, when the boat would make another trip. We were only too glad to do so. There was absolutely nothing else we could do. The whole country is a sheet of water from the levees being down in every direction. There is not a skiff to be borrowed or bought at any price.
The whole family, consisting of Col. and Mrs. Templeton and their two half-grown daughters, Mary and Emma, were as kind as possible to us. They did all they could to help us on. We were sorry to tell the Carsons good-bye. They were so kind, but we hope to meet them very soon. Col. Templeton’s is a pleasant home. It is a long, low house with a large yard, shaded with forest trees, cool, green and homelike. It is comfortable within but with no pretensions. They set an excellent table and have a well-filled larder. Most pleasant of all to storm-tossed wanderers was a warm welcome. The only thing I did not like: My bedfellow was a “Yankee school marm.” She professed to be a true Southerner in feeling, but when she knelt to pray I could not help speculating whether her petitions were for our success or the success of our enemies.
Emma Templeton is a little beauty, a dimpled blonde. Mary is a tall, pale, dark-eyed girl. Both of them are idolized by their parents. Mr. Hornwasher is their music and drawing teacher. He did not join the army. He had enough of war in his own country, no doubt.
Friday we came down to Delhi in an immense dugout, a trip of six hours. All seven of us — Mamma, Aunt Laura, Sister, Beverly, I, and the two boys — with an assorted cargo of corn, bacon, hams, Negroes, their baggage, dogs and cats, two or three men, and our scant baggage. It was a dreadful trip. We were very crowded, the hot sun beaming on us as we were creeping down the bayou, hungry and tired. There was a very strong reflection from the water, and one of our poor Negroes was sick, groaning most of the way, and could not be made comfortable. We were glad enough to get out at the railroad bridge and walk the mile to reach Delhi.
The scene there beggars description: such crowds of Negroes of all ages and sizes, wagons, mules, horses, dogs, baggage, and furniture of every description, very little of it packed. It was just thrown in promiscuous heaps, pianos, tables, chairs, rosewood sofas, wardrobes, parlor sets, with pots, kettles, stoves, beds and bedding, bowls and pitchers, and everything of the kind just thrown pell-mell here and there, with soldiers, drunk and sober, combing over it all, shouting and laughing. While thronging everywhere were refugees — men, women, and children, everybody and everything — trying to get on the cars, all fleeing from the Yankees or worse still, the Negroes.
All have lost heavily, some with princely estates and hundreds of Negroes, escaping with ten or twenty of their hands and only the clothes they have on. Others brought out clothes and household effects but no Negroes, and still others sacrificed everything to run their Negroes to a place of safety.
Everybody was animated and excited. All had their own tales to tell of the Yankee insolence and oppression and their hairbreadth escapes. All were eager to tell their own stories of hardship and contrivance, and everybody sympathized with everybody else. All were willing to lend a helping hand and to give advice to anybody on any subject. Nearly everybody took his trials cheerfully, making a joke of them, and nearly all are bound for Texas. Nobody “crying over spilled milk.” Not a tear all day, though one knows there were heavy hearts bravely borne.
We got off from Delhi about sunset and reached Monroe after twelve. Nearly all remained on the cars until daylight … it was impossible to get accommodations in town. It was amusing to watch the people wake up in the morning, wash their faces, smooth at their hair, and go to eating breakfast — leisurely and with as much sangfroid as though in their breakfast rooms at home. Everyone traveling on the cars now carries his own provisions, as you can get nothing if you do not, and no room if you get off. …
We drove through Monroe, which seems to be a beautiful little town, but I was suffering with fever too much to like anything. The road up the Ouachita was lovely. It is a clear bright stream with forest-shaded banks. The hard dry road was appreciated after the mud and water of the last months. The profusion of catalpa trees, all in full bloom, lining the streets of Monroe was indescribably fair in the early morning light. The deep green leaves seemed heaped with pyramids of snow. …
We crossed the river at Trenton on a flat and came out two miles in the hills to this place, Mr. Deane’s, but we hope to be here only a few days. The woods around here are beautiful with quantities of wild flowers and fruits. I have been sick in bed until today.
Yesterday Mamma and Jimmy went back to Delhi to get a party of soldiers to go back home with Jimmy and bring out the Negroes left there. All our and Aunt Laura’s house servants, the most valuable we own, were left. … We hear that the Negroes are still on the place, but the furniture and all movables have been carried out to camp by the Yankees. The Negroes quarreled over the division of our clothes. … Webster, our most trusted servant, claims the plantation as his own and is renowned as the greatest villain in the country. If we succeed in getting the Negroes we may say farewell to the buildings as no doubt they will be burned, but that may happen at any time.