Kate Stone’s Civil War: So little to eat

Stone’s family struggled to maintain their upper-class lifestyle. But as refugees from Union-dominated Louisiana, their actual affluence was gone, and food was in short supply.

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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 bemoaned the strange situation her slaveholding family now faced: plenty of slave servants but little food for them to prepare. Despite the deprivations her family endured, they determined to maintain their upper-class lifestyle, as she wrote before, with “two fine cooks and two dining-room servants.”

She didn’t mention what, if anything, the slaves managed to eat.

Nov. 15, 1863

Tyler, Texas

I have been promoted to Mamma’s post as listener-in-chief to Mrs. Carson. She cannot bear to be alone and must have someone to talk to. Mrs. Carson does not enjoy talking to me as much as she does Mamma, but I am better than nobody.

Col. Buckner took tea the other evening. He is a tall, handsome, blond man with engaging manners and does not seem heartbroken over the death of his wife and children. People live so fast now. We have no time to mourn.

We certainly have plenty of servants to do our bidding, most of Mamma’s house servants and all Mrs. Carson’s, and that is about all we do have. So little to eat: biscuit for we can get plenty of flour; syrup made of sugar, for we have a hogshead of sugar; and rusty, rancid bacon, absolutely all the meat we have been able to buy, no eggs, chickens, milk, butter, or fresh meat, and not a vegetable. Nothing more to be bought.

It seems absurd to have two fine cooks and two dining-room servants and such fare. The Negroes never had so little to do in their lives. We will surely do better in the spring if we can get seed, a cow, and some hens. No fruit but black haws. They are fine, much better than the red haw of the swamp.

The Union candidates at the North are elected — and peace, blessed peace, [is] as far away as ever.

Author: Fernando Ortiz Jr.

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

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