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Kate Stone’s Civil War: Scowling, revengeful faces

July 16, 2013

KS26

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)

One minor but interesting element of Stone’s diary is how long it took for her to learn of developments on the battlefield. As her old world crumbled, as she was cut off from traditional letters and newspapers, and as she moved farther and farther away from Brokenburn, it took longer for her to learn about rumors of defeats and victories and even longer to gain accurate information about such events.

For example, the Battle of Gettysburg ended on July 3, 1863, and Vicksburg surrendered to Grant’s siege on July 4. Note what Stone says of Lee in Pennsylvania and of Vicksburg’s defenders, almost two weeks after both Confederate defeats.

July 16, 1863

Lamar County, Texas

The atmosphere has been most peculiar for several days. The air is cool and damp. The earth, the air, the sky — all are a dull dead grey. The sun seems to emit neither heat nor light, gleaming with a dim red glare like a blood-red moon. We thought at first it was one phase of the Texas climate, but the natives are as much puzzled by it as the strangers in the land. Some think it portentous, a sign of great victories or defeats. Others think it the smoke from burning grain in Mississippi. No one really knows anything about it.

We hear that we have won a glorious victory back of Vicksburg, repulsing one wing of Grant’s army and opening communication with Vicksburg and replenishing her supplies. Also we hear of surprising the enemy in south Louisiana and capturing many men and stores. We also hear that Gen. Lee’s army is laying waste [to] Pennsylvania. If only the Pennsylvanians may feel some of the horrors of war and know the bitterness of defeat. We live in hopes that our day of triumph may come but we fear not in the near future. …

Texas seems a hard land for women and children. They fly around and work like troopers while the men loll on the galleries and seemingly have nothing to do. Mamma cannot start on her search for a new home for a week yet, and it is disagreeable living here … their ways are not our ways.

As we sat on the gallery tonight, gazing across the darkening prairie into the gleaming west, the very air was brilliant with fireflies. The fancy came that they were the eyes of the departed Indians, come to look again on their old hunting grounds, flashing through the night, looking with scowling, revengeful faces on the changes wrought by their old enemies, the palefaces. I fancy I can see the ghostly shapes one minute taking the form of an Indian brave with bended bow and flying arrow, the next fading into thin air leaving only the fiery eyes. …

2 Comments
  1. I love the descriptive, lyrical way she writes. The past really comes back to life with her words.

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