Kate Stone’s Civil War: Like mad demons

U.S. Grant’s stranglehold on Vicksburg overshadows Stone’s hopes for victory.


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)

U.S. Grant’s stranglehold on Vicksburg overshadows Stone’s hopes for victory.

June 3, 1863

Near Monroe, La.

Lt. Valentine is back from his Northern prison and brings us blessed news of My Brother’s safety. He was wounded in the left arm above the elbow in the Battle at Chancellorsville but by this time has rejoined his regiment. … He could not tell us much that was interesting about the North. They were kept too close to see or hear anything. He represents prison life as most monotonous and wearisome, but they were not ill-treated.

He says My Brother is having a nice time in Richmond and regrets the hole in his coat more than the hole in his arm. The last Nature will heal, the first will take money. Lt. Valentine joined his regiment, which was under marching orders at once, and they are now somewhere in the swamp. We are massing quite a force there under Gen. Taylor. May we strike a telling blow.

The news from Vicksburg is very contradictory, but there seems to be constant fighting going on. We were repulsed in every engagement until the troops fell back behind our entrenchment, since then we have driven back every assault with heavy losses on their side. They have made desperate charges on the batteries only to fall back with great slaughter. Numbers of Negroes, placed by their friends in the forefront of the battles, have been slain. Poor things, I am sorry for them. Gen. Grant has surrounded Vicksburg with an immense army. The struggle has commenced, but the great battle is still to be fought. Our friends around Vicksburg must have lost everything before this.

June 5

Aunt Laura and Mrs. Young have had the long-expected falling out, and Aunt Laura has gone to board about three miles from here. We think that in a short time the fate of Vicksburg will be decided, and she will know whether to go on to Vicksburg or to Texas with us. Mamma is also waiting in the hope that our troops will drive the Yankees from the swamp and we can go back home until fall or at least get what is left of the furniture. …

I am trying to braid a pretty braid of rye straw, as I can get no palmetto here, and I have promised Lt. Valentine a hat. Plaited one for Johnny in less than a day. It is rough and ugly, but he likes it. It is so light. Hatmaking is as much the rage here now as it was last summer in the swamp. …

We had a charming ride the other evening. Went out huckleberrying but not a berry did we see. The ride part of the way was over high hills shaded by towering longleaf pines and carpeted with tall woods grass and wild flowers, and sloping in green waves from the hills lay deep ferny hollows. …

June 10

We have bidden Aunt Laura and Beverly a long adieu I fear. They started yesterday for Mississippi to join Dr. Buckner, if possible. They go to Harrisonburg on a boat and then through the country to the river, if possible. They are under the care of Mr. John Curry, and it is doubtful whether they can get on. But Aunt Laura, or rather Mamma, thought it better for her to attempt it than to go to Texas. Aunt Laura wished to go on with us, but Mamma feared she could not stand the hardships of the long trip camping out and the rough life with little hope of seeing or hearing from Dr. Buckner until the war is over. We hated so to see her go. We shall miss them for a long time. We went in to Monroe and saw them off. Sent numbers of letters by them.

The news of today is that our men were repulsed at Milliken’s Bend and are falling back to Delhi. A very different account from the first. It is hard to believe that Southern soldiers and Texans at that have been whipped by a mongrel crew of white and black Yankees. There must be some mistake. …

All of us were busy from 5 o’clock until dusk making mattresses for the wounded soldiers expected at Monroe from the fight at Milliken’s Bend. It is said the Negro regiments fought there like mad demons, but we cannot believe that. We know from long experience they are cowards. …

Aunt Laura spent Sunday with us, our last day together. She went off in fear and trembling but is determined to get through if possible. She is such a sensitive, nervous woman that it will be a great ordeal for her, but it could not be helped.

Julia Barr and I are quite friends. I like Miss Sarah very much, but she is so absorbed with Mrs. Morancy that we see little of her. We are staying so long I fear Mrs. Wadley will get tired of us, and so we are all reconciled to making an early start to Texas.

Author: Fernando Ortiz Jr.

Handsome gentleman scholar, Civil War historian, unpretentious intellectual, world traveler, successful writer.

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