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Kate Stone’s Civil War: The heart of a boy

October 29, 2013


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’s brothers began a new school in Tyler, Texas, but bullies tormented them, and they nearly came to blows. Students brought guns to school to deal with these Louisiana refugees.

As Kate fretted, she and her mother sewed winter clothes and celebrated the construction of impressive new bonnets.

Oct. 29, 1863

“Refugee Ranch,” Tyler, Texas

We have been at Tyler scarcely long enough to feel settled, and the first thing is a grand disturbance that threatens all our plans.

It seems there is a great prejudice existing here against the unfortunate refugees, a feeling strong in Mr. Kaiser’s school that made Jimmy and Eddie Carson very unpopular. There was no open outbreak, however, until Jimmy and Johnny were entered as pupils. For several days the disaffected could find no open cause of offense, and our boys, perfectly unsuspecting, rode, walked, hunted, and marched together perfectly happy to renew their old friendships and not dreaming they were making enemies. But all this was the head and front of their offending. When they added to this “wearing gold watch chains and black broadcloth” a slender little strand of gold and a secondhand suit of clothes the Tyler boys could stand no more, and they rose in their wrath to put down those “refugee upstarts” most unaffected little fellows.

They opened hostilities by sticking pins in Jimmy and Johnny at church during the prayer. … Johnny was so enraged that he challenged the boy to come out of the church at once and fight, but the boy excused himself as he had a lady with him. They made an appointment to meet the next day and have a regular fisticuffs. The boy failed to keep the promise, and Jimmy denounced the act at school as ungentlemanly. The fuss blew over without coming to blows, the boys agreeing not to speak to each other, and they thought everything was settled. But the father of the boy came to school very angry and told Mr. Kaiser that unless Jimmy Stone was dismissed from school all the other boys would be taken away. Several boys wore pistols to school today, and they had formed a plan to mob Jimmy last night, but as I was with him they put it off.

We knew nothing of all this until Mr. Kaiser came over this evening to advise Mamma and Mrs. Carson to keep the boys inside the yard and to make Jimmy Carson take off the chain and put on rough clothes. Mr. Kaiser has acted a very cowardly part. The boys have been taken from school, and Mamma and Mrs. Carson are trying to get a private tutor for them. Jimmy Stone was studying hard since he knows his school days are short. …

Oct. 30

The Tyler boys are trying to force Jimmy Carson into a fight. Half a dozen of them are going armed for him, and we are very anxious. Mamma and Mrs. Carson have made our boys promise they will not be first to start a row. They restrain themselves but they are boiling with rage. Mamma will not let Jimmy go to church as she hears the Tyler boys intend mobbing him, and Jimmy is in a dreadful state of mind. He says they will all call him a coward. We do not care what these rowdy roughs call our boys, just so they do not all get into a free fight with pistols. If it was only fisticuff, we would let them fight it out. Mrs. Carson went to see Mr. Williams, the father of the ring-leader, and we hope her pacific representations to him will calm the excitement.

Jimmy Stone has behaved as well as a boy could, with firmness but moderation. I do not think he has even been angry until tonight, when Mamma forbid his going to church unless she or I went with him. And he has not put on a pistol until this morning, though he has known for several days that half a dozen boys are wearing pistols to “do him up,” as they say. The entire household is wrought up, and Jimmy is furious. He says he intends to shoot down the first boy tomorrow who says a harsh word to him.

Mrs. Carson is a strong member of the peace party and has forbidden either of her boys to go to Tyler on any pretext whatever. This restraint chafes the boys extremely but is a most necessary one, excited and angry as all the boys are. Johnny and Eddie had been wearing pistols days before we knew there was any trouble. How little we can know what is in the heart of a boy. Here we were, so pleased with their innocent sports, thinking them absorbed in their marbles and horses and marching around, when every boy was expecting a deadly encounter and burning with hatred for his enemies. We were praising Johnny for his devotion to study when lie insisted on going to school one day when Mamma thought him too unwell. We found out afterwards they were expecting a battle royal that day, and Johnny had an appointment to fight. I hope Mr. Kaiser, for his cowardly truckling in dismissing Jimmy without cause, will lose his school.

I am glad it is a general refugee quarrel instead of being confined to Jimmy. Edward Levy and George Grissman, refugee boys, have both had to leave school.

Mamma has been busy remodeling and making bonnets. She has excellent ideas on the subject, and we tell her a first-class milliner was spoiled when she turned to other pursuits. Her bonnet is quite a triumph, a regular “skyscraper” of straw and silk. She finished mine today, a pretty mixture of black velvet and cherry. It is the same I sported at Monroe in uniform with Julia Barr and Shirley Crith, but it is much improved by the addition of the bright color. I have been forced to take off black. None to be bought.

I am still on the weary treadmill of work, work, work that commenced at Monroe. Our sewing seems endless. We have been hard at it for nearly six months and the end is not yet. Mamma bought two calicoes for me, one at $55 and the other $66. One is made and I am sewing on the last one. We still have two drill dresses to make over. Jimmy is without winter underclothes, and we cannot buy a piece of woolen. We fear in such thin clothes he will take pneumonia again.

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