Kate Stone’s Civil War: Destroyed by the Yankees

Stone at last received news of the rest of her family and was left despondent. War scattered her relatives, destroyed their communities, and turned them into disgraced refugees.

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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)

Stone at last received news of the rest of her family and was left despondent. War scattered her relatives, destroyed their communities, and turned them into disgraced refugees.

Note how Stone almost admired how she managed to get on with her life with “almost nothing but servants, and yet we are comfortable.”

Sept. 20, 1863

“Elysian Fields,” Lamar County, Texas

Uncle Johnny was at Richmond, Va., a month ago and heard from nearly every member of the family. How thankful we are to know that they are all alive, though perhaps in distress. My Brother was neither killed nor hurt in the Pennsylvania campaign. Uncle Bo is as usual in fine health and spirits and is under [Confederate commander Braxton] Bragg. Dr. Buckner and Brother Coley are also with Gen. Bragg, and Aunt Laura is at Chattanooga within reach of Dr. Buckner. How glad we are that she is comfortably settled and not suffering all the discomforts of life in Texas. …

Aunt Sarah is at Bladen Springs, Ala. Poor little Horace is dead, a most bitter blow to his mother. He was her favorite. She was keeping house at Cooper’s Well when the Yankees marched on Jackson. She just escaped on the last train with only their wearing clothes. Everything else was destroyed by the Yankees, house and furniture burned, piano hacked to pieces, and the portraits torn to shreds. … It looks like the whole family is to be ruined, root and branch. Every member of it is broken up and all the women and children fleeing from the Yankees, while all the men and half-grown boys are in the army.

We are thankful Mamma has saved most of Uncle Bo’s Negroes, and if we can keep what we have now we can help the others. But I have a strong presentment that we shall yet lose all that we have and be compelled to labor with our hands for our daily bread.

Mrs. Smith had moved up to Mr. Vaughn’s just in time to give room for Uncle Johnny. How glad we are to have a house to ourselves once more. Mrs. Smith was very kind in leaving everything we needed for housekeeping. It is surprising how little one can get on with. We seem to have almost nothing but servants, and yet we are comfortable, comparatively so.

I have finished knitting those tiresome gloves and can read with a clear conscience. Fingered and gauntlet gloves are a trouble to knit.

Sept. 22

The news today is discouraging. Charleston [S.C.] has fallen, Louisiana and Arkansas are to be entirely deserted by our troops, and all the available forces of the Trans-Mississippi Department are to be concentrated at Tyler, Texas. If Charleston has fallen, it is because it was not in the power of man to hold it. Everything possible had been done, and it had made a most gallant defense. No disgrace can sully the name of its Gen. Beauregard, as the name of Lovell and Pemberton have been darkened. …

How I long for a glimpse at Brokenburn these pleasant autumn days radiant in flowers and crowned with fruit, the grassy yard and tall oaks, the clump of sassafras changing now to bright crimson, and the fragrant sweet gum showering down its leaves of gold, the flower garden sparkling across the grass, its many kinds of fall flowers gay in the mellow September sun, and the wide fields stretching away, white with cotton and vocal with the songs of the busy pickers. Shall we ever see it so again?

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Years of grinding toil

The Stone family’s plans to move to Tyler, Texas, were shattered when their guide was taken away to serve in the militia.

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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)

The Stone family’s plans to move to Tyler, Texas, were shattered when their guide was taken away to serve in the militia. Kate Stone’s mother demanded his return.

Sept. 14, 1863

“Elysian Fields,” Lamar County, Texas

Our affairs are in a state of confusion worse confounded. All our plans were nipped in the bud by Mr. Smith’s being taken to camp to serve in the militia in spite of Gen. Smith’s detail. Everything is at a standstill with us. Mrs. Smith insulted the men who came for Mr. Smith, and so they waylaid him and took him off to camp, not allowing him even to come by home and get a change of clothes. Mrs. Smith was deadly angry, and an ironical message from one of Mr. Smith’s captors has made her rabid. Her abuse of everything and everybody in Texas is eloquent. We were to have started to Tyler. Mr. Smith was going to Shreveport on important business for Mamma, Mrs. Smith and Miss Mary were going to live at Mr. Vaughn’s and take charge of his children, but all our plans have come to naught.

I hear the crickets and see the stars so the storm must have passed us by, and we will not sleep under a dripping roof.

Sept. 19

A most pleasant surprise this morning. Uncle Johnny, his wife, and baby arrived at our Retreat. They are fleeing from the Yankees in Arkansas and are on their way to Austin, where Uncle Johnny hopes to edit a newspaper. They came 150 miles out of their route to see us. His wife, Kate, is a sweet, innocent-looking woman. She looks about sixteen, though she is twenty-one. The baby, Sally, is the tiniest mite of a creature. Texas air will have to do much for her before she gets a strong hold on life. We will be here several weeks longer, and this new family will be a great pleasure. We can at least talk to the newcomers, and Mamma and I have about exhausted all our well-worn topics.

Mamma thinks now affairs are entrain to get Mr. Smith again detailed by paying $500 and swearing she is in need of his services. Mamma went Thursday all the way to Charleston, the militia camp, to get Mr. Smith released. She met there her Paris friend, Gen. Smith, who was very polite and who really seemed to wish to do her a kindness. He will do all in his power to get Mr. Smith off. He is the second man we have met in Texas who seemed to have goodwill for refugees and sympathy for their troubles. If the officers had any sense, they could see that Mamma is forced to have someone to manage for her. Mamma and Miss Mary saw a funny set at Charleston.

We have had a succession of callers recently. The unadulterated natives are all eager to hire Negroes. There is a furor for them. All the old ladies in the county are falling sick just to get their “Old Men” to hire a servant. Who can blame them after their years of grinding toil for seeking a little rest?

Torn in the USA

Life, liberty, and the doomed pursuit of happiness. A review essay by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

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Life, liberty, and the doomed pursuit of happiness.
A review essay by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

******

Discussed in this essay:

Make Love, Not War: The Sexual Revolution: An Unfettered History. By David Allyn. (New York: Routledge, 2001. 400 pp. $26.96).

Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939. 2nd ed. By Lizabeth Cohen. (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 568 pp. $25.99).

Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class. By Jefferson Cowie. (New York: The New Press, 2010. 488 pp. $15.98).

“Resistance in the Urban North: Trumbull Park, Chicago, 1953-1966.” By Arnold R. Hirsch. The Journal of American History. (82, no. 2 [September, 1995]: 522-550. JSTOR [accessed Feb. 1, 2013] ).

In Search of the Black Panther Party: New Perspectives on a Revolutionary Movement. Edited by Jama Lazerow and Yohuru Williams. (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2006. 408 pp. $24.01).

Quixote’s Soldiers: A Local History of the Chicano Movement, 1966-1981. By David Montejano. (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2010. 360 pp. $23.70).

Polio: An American Story. By David M. Oshinsky. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. 368 pp. $16.95).

“Crabgrass-Roots Politics: Race, Rights, and the Reaction against Liberalism in the Urban North, 1940-1964.” By Thomas J. Sugrue. The Journal of American History. 82, no. 2 [September, 1995]: 551-578. JSTOR [accessed Feb. 1, 2013] ).

I.

The New Deal caressed with warm rays of hope the hearts and minds of millions of Americans grappling with the Great Depression. Shimmering ideals carved into the pillars of 1930s bureaucratic power re-invented the relationship between government and the people it represented. The New Deal also served for subsequent generations as a gateway opening onto a glowing era without racism, illness, or injustice. Citizens only needed to step towards the entrance to realize the core tenets – and challenges — of their American democracy: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Select academic and popular works from the past two decades beautifully illustrate how Americans dared to aspire for better lives, to reach out for democracy’s sweetest fruits, and to confront adversaries unwilling to share the treasures of freedom.

The aspiration for a better life often began with fair employment. Lizabeth Cohen’s Making a New Deal and Jefferson Cowie’s Stayin’ Alive both focus on the journey the working-class endured throughout six decades of economic turbulence and doomed political alliances. Cohen sets the stage by exploring Chicago’s ethnic working-class communities from about 1920 to 1940. Before the Great Depression, companies corralled their workers into paternalistic corporate societies. Workers enjoyed picnics, medical care, education, and other key aspects of a full life, yet all existed in the company’s shadow, without leverage to demand higher wages or a significant voice to improve worker conditions. Corporate authority framed workers’ identities. Cohen’s tapestry of Chicago communities gradually changed their understanding of who they were – from automatons governed by heartless corporate machinery to autonomous citizens who could no longer look to their employers for economic protection. Just as they changed their outlook, the liberal Democratic Roosevelt administration grew in political power and effectiveness. They reached out for each other. Energized unions offered workers a new avenue towards their goals of economic security, social legitimacy, and a viable political voice. The Democratic Party valued union support, listened to workers’ needs, and institutionalized the view that government could protect workers from corporate manipulation and financial unrest.

But the freedom from corporate autocracy, Cohen explains, added to workers’ lives a new vulnerability to “new tyrannies.” Chicago workers, along with workers throughout the U.S., became so closely bound to Democratic policy that when the Roosevelt administration, faced with entry into World War II, moved closer to companies needed to make war materiel, workers had no choice but to endure the consequences of corporate-friendly agreements. Alliances with political groups, Cohen also points out, meant workers swam in deeper political waters, filled with large allies but even larger enemies. Workers savored their new political value, but their leaders also did whatever was necessary to hold on to that influence on parties, administrations, and elections. Political enemies like Richard Nixon targeted that desire and the frustration workers felt over advantages the civil rights movements afforded to minorities.

Cowie’s Stayin’ Alive examines labor after the New Deal’s light faded beyond history’s horizons. He focuses on the years between 1968 and 1982. The working-class identity in the midst of that postwar political dusk was still proud and hopeful, hand-in-hand with liberal determination to transform the working-class into a new segment of the middle class. Three decades later, the working-class identity was a mutilated and incinerated political corpse quietly spat upon and dumped into Ronald Reagan’s ashbin of history.

The 1968 presidential election opened amid the cacophony of riots over the Vietnam War and years of unrest over the Great Society’s promised solutions to workplace, school, and social inequalities. Vice President Hubert Humphrey emerged from Democrats’ circular firefight as the presidential nominee, with only the labor machinery at his side, Cowie writes, making labor the “big boss in the Democratic Party.” Richard Nixon, leading a united Republican Party, raced into the gaps in the Democratic ranks, slicing off white working-class workers with manufactured sympathy over their growing hostility to effete Northern “elitists,” the anti-war movement, women who refused to recognize traditional patriarchal authority, and empowered minorities disrupting workplaces and intensifying corporate hostility to labor’s aspirations for better wages and improved worker rights. Workers in 1968 and 1972 slipped into a warm electoral spa with Nixon, a python sympathetically caressing their dreams as his coils squeezed them to death. Nixon, Cowie deftly points out, was the last president to view the working class in the context of their New Deal legacy of political empowerment. He invented a new chess board on which workers were neutralized as electoral threats and absorbed into the net Nixon cast over the landscape of American voters. He lured them into his New Majority by targeting the cultural-vs.-material dichotomy in the workers’ outlook, appealing to their sentimental ideal of New Deal America and blurring the financial danger his party posed to workers’ dreams for better lives.

The danger Nixon directly posed to labor’s aspirations ended with his 1974 resignation. But Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory – secured in part with his own Nixonian seduction of working-class patriotic sentiments — worsened what Nixon began. His election followed four years of Democrat Jimmy Carter, who was never a stalwart labor ally and was hardly the mortar needed to rebuild the old alliances the civil rights and antiwar movements fractured. Economic problems sparked in the late 1960s intensified in the 1970s. Industries moved to regions that fought union organization and offered corporate-friendly employment laws. By 1980, Cowie wrote, “a unionized manufacturing job” was a precious drink of water for workers crawling across a blasted economic wasteland. The dire predicament worsened when the Reagan administration shattered the Professional Air Traffic Controllers (PATCO) strike in 1981, legitimating conservative disregard for labor as a viable element of the political calculus and exposing workers, stripped of government allies, to corporate manipulation. Cohen’s workers embarked on a journey to build new and better lives. Cowie’s workers continued the journey but failed to overcome the obstacles that moved into their path. The menagerie of groups gathered under the New Deal canopy may have simulated solidarity but they also stimulated real (if not lasting) determination among labor, even if bitter divisions negated their triumphs.

II.

One of the New Deal’s sparks ignited the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s. As the working class pursued better economic lives, blacks and Latinos throughout the United States pursued liberty. David Montejano’s Quixote’s Soldiers and Jama Lazerow’s and Yohuru Williams’ In Search of the Black Panther Party both portray inspired individuals striving for the dignity of equal treatment, but the authors also refuse to portray equally inspirational coalitions that overcame every level of institutional opposition. Internal divisions, as Cohen and Cowie illustrate with their labor histories, threatened the civil rights movements at every turn.

Montejano’s three-part local history explores the multifaceted Chicano civil rights fight in San Antonio from 1966 to 1981. Chicanos targeted the “gringo supremacy” that governed the city and region. They saw Anglos dominating the social scenes and annual Fiesta events. They blamed Anglos for limiting Latino economic mobility and quality of education. The Latino movement descended from World War II and Korean War Latino veterans who returned home with legitimate expectations, particularly “first-class citizenship,” from the society they fought to defend. Social activists tried to ease the ravaging effects of gang violence and drug use on youth culture by encouraging Chicanismo or “carnalismo” — a sense of Chicano brotherhood that appreciated Latino history and aimed to improve a Latino identity unfairly associated with poverty, ignorance, and violence. Latinos demanded better schools and textbooks, and they conducted school walkouts to drive home their displeasure. They marched in the streets to protest police brutality and housing discrimination. They formed organizations like the Mexican American Youth Organization to coordinate messages, register voters, and gather participants.

Montejano considers much of San Antonio’s Chicano movement a success. But with progress came resistance. Montejano points to U.S. Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, who saw the new fiery Chicano voices as a threat to his institutionalized power base. Like patriarchal labor leaders willing to deal with any political power that preserved their status, Gonzalez perceived Chicano protestors’ “aggressive nationalism” as disruptive to fragile local understandings and arrangements with the “gringo supremacy” and to his own ambitions. Chicanas demanded equality from the paternalistic community that expected them to remain subordinate to Chicano goals, tactics, and directions, and resistance to their demands also caused internal rifts. Women, Montejano writes, challenged male activists to extend the equality principle to their own households and “machismo” attitudes that oppressed Chicana expression and progress. The struggle echoes Cohen, who wrote that female members of the Congress of Industrial Organizations were not allowed in positions of union leadership because “the male breadwinner would represent the family’s interests in policy making.”

Lazerow and Williams take a dispersed approach to the Black Panther Party’s accomplishments and contributions. In Search of the Black Panther Party uses fourteen essays to connect their battles to a wide array of revolutionary movements within and beyond U.S. borders. Contributor Jeffrey Ogbar’s piece on Black Panther connections to Latino nationalists best illustrates their struggle in a larger racial context. The Black Panthers inspired the Chicano Brown Berets and the Puerto Rican Young Lords and Latin Kings. The aggressively vocal “black demand for equality,” embodied by Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, also energized Latino youths who realized their demands could be heard by institutions that could address them. Black nationalist themes of “multinational alliances and cooperation” resonated with Chicanos who saw paralyzing U.S. colonialism in Central America and with Puerto Ricans in the U.S. who saw pervasive Caribbean poverty. The Black Panthers also played a uniting factor among strivers for liberty. In 1970, Ogbar explains, the Party “became the first major black organization to align itself with a women’s liberation movement,” which was seen as an Anglo cause. They later embraced the gay rights movement. The Panthers linked Latinas to bolder visions of social equality their patriarchal Chicano partners could not stomach, and they injected Black Power’s pride and dignity into the Latino movements, enriching the struggles as well as the rewards.

Social divisions often crippled the civil rights struggles. Arnold R. Hirsch’s study of white resistance to community change in Chicago from 1953 to 1966 and Thomas J. Sugrue’s study of similar disdain in Detroit from 1940 to 1964 both brutally underline the tragic consequences of unresolved racial differences among the New Deal’s descendants. Hirsch’s microstudy of a plan to move black families into Chicago’s Trumbull Park Homes and Sugrue’s local history of Detroit’s white working class illustrate how some Americans reached their economic goals and left other similar groups behind. In Chicago, whites refused to live with blacks in the same neighborhood. In Detroit, whites worried that rights for minorities threatened their workplaces, wages, schools, and communities. Social, personal, and material concerns, Hirsch and Sugrue demonstrate, mattered more than the moral struggle for equality and justice.

Americans pursued better lives and secure liberties. They also pursued happiness – fuller lives, longer lives, and healthier lives. The New Deal’s defeat of poverty and the World War II defeat of fascism primed Americans for victory in an old war at home: the fight for freedom from disease and, decades later, the fight for freedom from sexual oppression.

III.

David Oshinsky’s Polio: An American Story explores the national endeavor to eradicate the polio virus with a safe vaccine. Millions of dollars were raised. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also a polio victim, encouraged the multi-city celebration of his birthday to raise funds for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. He inspired women canvassing their communities for donations. Citizens and politicians worked together for the common good. A vaccine would help young and poor, of any race or religion, and prove the benefits of a democratic society free to fulfill its potential. It also showcased U.S. scientific abilities as the postwar era darkened into the Cold War era. Experts like Jonas Salk became the public face of American ingenuity. The 1954 vaccination trials offered tangible hope and a sense of progress towards an ultimate cure.

The polio story touches on race, ethnicity, and class. Before the vaccine’s development, Americans blamed immigrants for bringing disease and viewed lower-class slums as cesspools of infection. But rich and poor were struck equally. Scientists thought black Americans were less susceptible to polio, so they received less attention during outbreaks. By the mid-1950s, polio ravaged the lower classes who could not afford the three-shot-plus-booster combination.

Freedom from oppression is just as important as freedom from disease. David Allyn’s Make Love, Not War tenderly explores a sexual renaissance that ebbed and flowed from the 1960s to the 1980s, opening new social spaces for expressions of gay sexuality, experiments with group sex, sophisticated sexual education, the birth control pill, and an open sexual life.

Allyn argues that the sexual revolution changed the most important element of any sex life: the mind. Every phase of the revolution, from acceptance of sexual literature at bookstores to a woman deciding to have an abortion or control her fertility, prepared for the ground for more changes in Americans’ outlook on their times. Swinger parties were incorporated into normal suburban lives. Couples consulted illustrated sex manuals to improve their nocturnal time together. Gay Americans celebrated their desires in clubs that were no longer hidden away in shameful corners of the urban landscape. The revolution introduced to Americans a new freedom from fear, and that freedom still flourishes — and must still be defended — today.

The pursuits of life, liberty, and happiness eventually end for some as others begin the journey anew. Superior forces obstructed the revolutions’ progress. Tragic internal weaknesses, inherent or introduced at a later point, ripped apart movements’ ideological cohesion and lasting power. These works offer larger lessons and warnings to future revolutionaries and idealists: know where you want to arrive before beginning the journey, and bind yourselves tightly to your most unlikely of allies. These works silently demand perseverance, patience, and belief that the American Dream belongs to everyone. One must only fight for it, even if it means fighting other marginalized Americans. There may never be enough of the Dream for everyone.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: It makes us shiver

In the absence of hard facts or updated news from the battlefields, rumors of all kinds were rampant.

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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)

In the absence of hard facts or updated news from the battlefields, rumors of all kinds were rampant.

Sept. 1, 1863

“Elysian Fields,” Lamar County, Texas

A letter from Jimmy at Jefferson [Texas] on the thirty-first of July, just as he was leaving for Navasota. It is almost time for his return, and Mamma is anxious for him to get back. She wants the wagons to move the Negroes before they hear that the Yankees are coming in from the North, as it is rumored, and before they have a chance to make a break for the Federal lines again.

There are quite a number of Yankee prisoners at Tyler, captured while in command of black troops. It does seem like they ought to be hanged, and they are so impudent too. The detestable creatures!

There is a rumor that Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, and Tennessee have applied for admission into the Union again. Of course, we know it is a base fabrication, but many of the natives believe it firmly. They will believe anything against Louisiana. They seem to hate that state, and we would not give one Louisiana parish for half of Texas.

Our pet rumor is again in the air that France, Spain, and England have recognized the Confederacy. Oh, that it were true. …

We hear that Mrs. White, from whom we rented books and also bought one or two, has leprosy. It makes us shiver to think of it, and our handling her things and Patsy nursing her. We can only hope it is another big story, as it is too late to take precautions.

Sept. 11

Jimmy is back after an absence of seven weeks, and now as soon as we can collect up our scattered goods and chattels we will be off to fresh fields and pastures new. …

The Federals made only a short stay at Monroe, but were busy at the work of destruction. Would like to know how our friends have fared.

Our high hopes of recognition by the European powers are again dashed to the ground. If they just would not start such rumors, raising expectations only to be disappointed.

We paid a three-day visit to Mrs. Slaughter up in the famous Union neighborhood, Honey Grove, where they say there is only one Confederate family. There, everyone you talk to says of course we will be conquered. In Louisiana one rarely heard such an idea expressed.

We attended a large Baptist meeting in the vicinity several times. The interest and excitement were intense. There were often fifty mourners crowded around the altar and the church crowded to suffocation. Never saw so many men in church before, and we have not seen so many men at one time since the war commenced, unless they were soldiers in uniform. The scene at night was most striking: the anxious, excited faces, crowding and surging around the altar; the exalted, earnest mien of the minister; the groans and shrieks and wild prayers of the mourners, mingling with the shouts and hallelujahs of the newly professed; while high over all rises the thunder of a triumphant hymn, borne on many voices. In the background gleam the eager, curious faces of the lookers-on, row on row.

A scene to thrill and interest anyone, but I must take my religion more quietly. It was a country-looking congregation with a sprinkling of nice people. Short dresses, large hoops, and top-knotted sun-bonnets, the style.