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Kate Stone’s Civil War: The bitterness of defeat

October 10, 2015

KS46

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 is reunited with her brothers, who were sent ahead to evaluate the condition of the Brokenburn plantation. They bring back disastrous news.

Oct. 10, 1865

Lamar County, Texas

Jimmy and My Brother joined us about ten days ago, and we have never passed ten more unhappy days. Our future is appalling: no money, no credit, heavily in debt, and an overflowed place. No wonder Mamma is so discouraged. Since My Brother’s return, we have all had the blues and look forward with dread to our return to Louisiana. But there is nothing else to do. Nothing for us here. Mamma, Sister, and I, with Johnny or Jimmy, will get off early next week, going straight on, while My Brother will bring the Negroes back. The contrabands are all crazy to return to Louisiana, as soon as they realized that My Brother did not wish to take them, and are on their best behavior. What a treacherous race they are! I doubt whether one will remain with us a week after we return.

The name “Vexation” we have given this place is most appropriate. It has been a most trying job settling up the business, and My Brother and Mr. Smith say everyone they have had dealings with has not only tried but succeeded in cheating them. We are in all the stir and disagreeable confusion of moving, yet preparations to get off advance but slowly, though all four of the menfolks are doing their best to expedite our departure. We have to send such a distance for everything we need.

It seems an ill-advised move to take the Negroes back unless they could be bound by some contract to remain on the place, and that is impossible. It is so expensive and troublesome to move about eighty or ninety Negroes such a distance. …

Jimmy goes to Tyler this week and will join us somewhere on the road. We will camp out just as we did when we came to Texas but will have a more comfortable vehicle and a more careful driver. …

Mamma and Mrs. Smith are away today visiting the dentist at Ladonia, the boys are off on business, and so Sister and I have the house to ourselves. It is delightful to be alone sometimes, a pleasure we have rarely enjoyed since we left Brokenburn. We have lived in crowded quarters all the time. I shall be glad to get to the solitude of my own room at Brokenburn, even if it will be but sparsely furnished. My Brother says all our furniture has been divided out among the Negroes and Yankees.

How exceedingly quiet he is. Rarely talks at all. He was never very fluent and being in the army has intensified his silence and reserve, and he seems to take little interest in hearing others. We hope home life will brighten him up and make him more cheerful. He feels the bitterness of defeat more than anyone we have met. He cannot reconcile himself to give up everything but honor. …

Our trip will probably take a month. The weather is lovely, and we hope to get home over good roads and to arrive before the fall rains set in. A sad journey to the old scenes.

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