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Kate Stone’s Civil War: Baffled beasts of prey

June 20, 2013

KS19

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)

As Stone and her family regained their bearings in their temporary home before making the final push for Texas, Stone’s bitter sense of humor flashed for a moment as she dryly observed the effects of marriage on a young woman’s beauty.

May 3, 1863

Near Monroe, La.

We went to a real country church this morning, saw a country congregation, and heard a sermon to match. Loring Wadley made several trips with the buggy to get us all there, but two of the party rode back in Dr. Young’s $3,000 carriage. We had a pleasure today in a visit of several hours from Julia Street. She came down from Bastrop just for the day. She is more nearly depressed than I ever saw her.

Annie and Peggy got here from the salt works today, and we are glad to have somebody to wait on us again. I expect we will keep them busy. …

May 5

Near Monroe, La.

The gunboats are unable to pass Grand Gulf and are lying idle between Vicksburg and Grand Gulf, like baffled beasts of prey. There is a great scarcity of provisions all through Mississippi. It is difficult to provision Vicksburg for a long siege. …

We went yesterday to see Florence Pugh (now Mrs. Morrison), an old schoolmate. The family are near here now on their way to Texas. She is a dear, sweet girl but looks dreadful. How marrying does change a body for the worse. She was a pretty girl a year ago, fresh and dainty. Now she is married and almost ugly.

I am busy every day trying to make up the cloth Mamma bought, but it is slow, tiresome work for one person with no sewing machine. The only things Mamma could find to buy belonged to the Lowrys, and they sold them at awful prices: $60 for a pair of common blankets, $50 for a pair of linen sheets, and everything else in proportion. They have sold much of their own clothing. Mamma bought some of Olivia’s things for Sister. … It seems funny to be wearing other people’s half-worn clothing, but it is all we can get. Mamma bought some Turkey-red calico at $3 a yard for a dress for Sister.

May 10

Near Monroe, La.

Mamma returned from the salt works on Friday, riding the whole distance on horseback. It was dreadfully fatiguing for one who rides so little. She has gone this evening to Delhi to make another attempt to have the Negroes brought out, if she can get soldiers to go with Jimmy. Quite a number of Negroes have been brought out in that way recently, some from within the lines.

The news from the salt works is bad. Frank, my maid, and Dan both died of pneumonia and neglect, and three others are very ill. Poor Frank, I am sorry for her to go. She has been raised in the house with us. With so much sickness among the Negroes, Mr. Smith has been unable to start to Texas. …

Several thousand of our soldiers are now at Monroe under Maj. Gen. Walker. Two of the officers spent yesterday evening here and told us the whole command would get off this morning and that there were some splendid bands with the regiments. So this morning we rode out to the river opposite Monroe to see them off, starting before sunrise. We saw crowds of soldiers, talked to a number of them, and heard inspiring music. The ride all the way through the spring woods was delightful. I sat up until twelve the night before fixing a sort of riding habit. … The troops after embarking received counterorders and are again in Monroe, expecting to march at any minute. There is another panic in Monroe. The Yankees are looked for at any time. They could not make anything out of this poor family. We have been too thoroughly plucked by the river Feds. …

Aunt Laura is not very well. We would dread to see her get sick.

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