Kate Stone’s Civil War: A besom of destruction

Stone glories over desperately-needed good news from the battlefield: the Confederate victory at Mansfield, La. But she also realizes that she doesn’t view death as she once did.

KS55

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 glories over desperately-needed good news from the battlefield: the Confederate victory at Mansfield, La. But she also realizes that she doesn’t view death as she once did.

April 15, 1864

Tyler, Texas

Jimmy, Sister, and I are keeping house in lonely state. Mamma and Johnny are on a visit to the prairie. …

People do not mourn their dead as they used to. Everyone seems to live only in the present just from day to day otherwise I fancy many would go crazy.

Carrie Lowry was married last month to Col. Polk of Arkansas. Her family are all pleased at the match. It was a grand wedding, and Julia was first bridesmaid.

A letter from Aunt Sarah to Mamma enclosing one from My Brother. He was on the Rapidan when he wrote, on picket duty but was soon after detailed as brigade inspector and ordered to headquarters at Orange County Court House. He expected a nice time there, a tent, and little to do. He has lost hope of a transfer. They will not even give him a furlough. We still have strong hopes of his transfer through Gen. Kirby Smith’s application. As Mamma was away, I opened the letter with a sinking heart, sure that it contained bad news.

The papers are filled with news of our great victory at Mansfield, La., where the Yankees were so confident of success. They had boasted that in two weeks the last armed rebel would be driven from Louisiana, Shreveport would be taken without a struggle, and then they would sweep over Texas, a besom of destruction. Then they would leisurely march back, after establishing freedom, law, and order in this benighted country, to the river, going in time to join Grant in his “On to Richmond.”

But they find themselves mistaken. We did the gobbling act. We have taken over 5,000 soldiers and many stores. It is our first great success on this side of the river, and the effect will be magical, inspiring both citizens and soldiers. Our loss was heavy, especially in officers, Gens. Green and Mouton both killed and Gen. Polignac dangerously wounded. Our gallant Southern soldiers who can praise them enough? As much as they deserve? We will never laugh at our soldiers on this side of the Mississippi again. …

Capt. King has married recently a pretty little Creole refugee from New Orleans. It was a short acquaintance. We have exchanged calls and find her very pleasant, but I doubt she will have a happy life. We find Capt. King is quite a drinker.

Dr. McGregor from Arkansas in one of the Departments here is our most frequent visitor. Dr. Johnson, of laboratory fame/ has presented us with such a nice chessboard and backgammon box made by himself, and I have vanquished him in a game of chess much to my delight and his chagrin. It was his first game lost to a lady he says. He is something like Dr. Buckner in manner, and about his age. Dr. McGregor is a jolly, good-natured bachelor not overly refined. He is something like our New Orleans friend, Mr. McGregor. The same clan, I suppose.

Willy Carson is at home. He has not grown any but looks well. … He is awfully shy and ill at ease. As I succeeded in melting Jimmy Carson’s reserve, I do not despair of Willy. I am about the only young lady in the world that Jimmy is not afraid of. We are great chums. …

We have had several trashy novels, the best, The Dead Secret. The papers are most interesting and a great resource, particularly the Houston papers.

Author: Fernando Ortiz Jr.

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

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