Amerikan Rambler: ‘A Great and a Terrible Day’: The Battle of Antietam

From Nov. 2013: “The story of the Army of the Potomac from late-1861 to late-1862 is the story of an internal battle between the ‘Young Napoleon’ and the Lincoln Administration.”

Lee got lucky to have fought the North to a draw in Maryland. However, despite being outnumbered 2:1, Lee held a psychological advantage over McClellan that allowed him to fight a better battle tactically. McClellan always thought Lee had more men, and it was this delusion that gave Lee confidence that he could carry the day.

via “A Great and a Terrible Day”: The Battle of Antietam — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Loreta’s Civil War: His death perfectly infuriated me

Velazquez participates in the Battle of Shiloh, savoring the Confederates’ victory on the first day. But she fears an opportunity for total victory is slipping away.

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Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Part 19: Velazquez participates in the Battle of Shiloh, savoring the Confederates’ victory on the first day. But she fears an opportunity for total victory is slipping away.

******

At length, all the officers in Memphis were ordered to proceed to without delay, and then everyone knew that a big battle was expected to come off shortly. As a consequence, the greatest excitement prevailed, and many of the officers found it hard work parting from their friends. In order to avoid a scene with Miss M., I wrote her a note, bidding her farewell, which was not to be delivered until after I left the city; and, jumping aboard the train, was soon on my way to Corinth.

On arriving at Corinth, I found great preparations being made and everything nearly ready for a forward movement. I met a considerable number of old friends, some of them old Virginia comrades, whom I had not seen for a very long time. We exchanged very cordial greetings, but otherwise we had not much time to give to each other, they having important duties to perform, while I was eagerly endeavoring to obtain some official position that would enable me to participate in the coming fight in a manner advantageous to myself. All the commanding officers, however, were too busy just then to attend to me, and so I resolved to follow the army to the field in my independent capacity, and take my chances there. The order to advance being given, the army moved out of Corinth in the direction of Pittsburg Landing, animated by the expectation of being able to fall upon the enemy and deliver a crushing blow at a moment when it was least expected.

After the capture of that position, the Federals had swept in triumph through Tennessee, the Confederates having been compelled to abandon their lines in that state and in Kentucky, and to seek a new base of operations farther south. The Federals were now concentrating a great force at Pittsburg Landing, on the Tennessee River, their immediate object of attack evidently being Corinth, and Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, who was in command of the entire Confederate army, resolved upon striking a vigorous blow at once, with a view of turning the tide of victory in our favor before the enemy were assembled. …

The reports which we received from our scouts, and from the country people, indicated either that the Federals were unaware of the strength of the Confederates in their immediate neighborhood, or else that, flushed with victory, they were over-confident, and were taking comparatively few precautions against a surprise. These things were the common talk of the Confederates for days before the battle took place; and while not a little astonishment was expressed at the temerity of the enemy, considerable jubilation was felt at the idea of our being able to gain a comparatively easy victory, which would put an end to the invasion, or at least so stagger the Federals that subsequent operations against them would be unattended [without] any great difficulties. …

Obtaining a pass from the provost marshal, I put my tent in an army wagon, and then Bob and I mounted our horses and started for the field, on Saturday, April 5, 1862. The roads were in a horrible condition from the heavy spring rains, and we made rather slow progress … and I was very tired when, at nightfall, I reached a village of half a dozen scattered houses called Monterey, about half way between Corinth and Shiloh Church, a little Methodist meeting-house, just outside the Federal picket lines. It was necessary for me to halt here until morning, so, obtaining sufficient forage for my horse from a Mississippi regiment, I prepared to camp for the night, and hoped to get a sound sleep, to fit me for the hot work of the next day.

My animals having been fed, I took off the saddles, and raking up a quantity of leaves, arranged my bed by spreading a saddle blanket to lie upon, and placing a saddle for a pillow. Then throwing myself on this extemporized couch, I wrapped myself in an army blanket, and was soon lost in slumber as profound as would have visited me had my accommodations been of the most luxurious description.

I was not destined, however, to have a quiet, uninterrupted slumber, such as I needed, for ere long I was awakened by the rain, which began to fall in torrents, and which compelled me to seek some more sheltered spot in which to finish the night. My first care was for my horse, and covering him well with the blanket, I went as fast as I could to one of the deserted houses of the village and stopped there until the rain was over.

It was quite three o’clock before the shower ceased, and it was high time for me to be moving if I expected to take part in the opening of the battle, as I was exceedingly anxious to do. I therefore ordered the horses to be saddled, and was in a few moments ready to start. A soldier very generously offered me a cup of army coffee, which … was swallowed with great relish, and with many benedictions on the giver, whose courtesy I rewarded by a good-sized drink of brandy from a flask I carried for the benefit of my friends. His eyes fairly sparkled with delight as he gulped it down, and he smacked his lips as if he had not had such a treat for many a day. Then mounting my horse, I set off at a smart pace for Gen. Hardee’s headquarters.

I found the general stationed near Shiloh Church, and rode up and saluted him just as he was mounting his horse. Showing him my pass, I said that I wanted to have a hand in this affair. Hardee looked at the pass, “and replied, “All right; fall in, and well see what can be done for you.”

The fighting had already commenced between the skirmish lines of the two armies while I was conversing with the general, and the troops were hurrying forward to attack the Federals before they could gain time to prepare them- selves for an effective resistance.

In obedience to Hardee’s command, I fell in with his men, and we advanced briskly upon the enemy’s camp. It was a complete surprise in every respect. Many of the enemy were only half-dressed and were obliged to snatch up the first weapons that came to hand as the Confederates rushed out of the woods upon them. The contest was brief and decisive, and in a few moments such of the enemy, as [they] escaped the deadly volleys which we poured into them, were scampering away as fast as their legs could carry them. We took possession of their camp … almost without resistance, and I thought that this was an excellent … beginning of the day’s work, especially as I had the pleasure of eating a capital hot breakfast, which had been prepared for some Federal officer. …

1 had scarcely finished eating when I came across Gen. Hardee again. He was in a high good humor at the course events had taken thus far, and said to me in a jocular sort of way, “Well, lieutenant, what can I do for you?” I replied that I was anxious to do my share of the fighting, and wanted to be stationed where there was plenty of work to be done. The general laughed a little at my enthusiasm, but just then his attention was called away for a moment, and I, glancing down the line, spied the Arkansas boys whom I had enlisted at Hurlburt Station nearly a year before. I was immediately seized with a desire to go into the fight with them, so I said, “Ah, there is my old company, general; with your permission, I will see the captain. Perhaps he can give me a chance.”

Hardee nodded an assent, and, giving him a salute, I started off at full speed to the rear, where I got my commission out of my pocket, and then darted along the line, closely followed by Bob, my idea being to avoid being stopped by giving the impression that I was bearing an order from the general. Dismounting from my horse, I forced my way through the ranks until I reached Captain De Caulp, who shook me heartily by the hand and was evidently delighted to see me, as we had not met since I parted from him in Pensacola the previous June, when starting for Richmond. …

Notwithstanding the number of strange faces that met my eyes as I glanced along the ranks, I saw enough old acquaintances to make myself very much at home, and I was delighted beyond measure in an opportunity to take part in a great battle … and to show that, even if I was a little dandy, I was as good a soldier as the best of them when any hard fighting was to be done. In- deed, all the circumstances were such as to inspire me to distinguish myself by some unusually gallant action, and I resolved that, if it were possible to do so, the occasion should be made a memorable one for us all.

[T]he reader will please know that Captain De Caulp and I were under an engagement of marriage, having been in correspondence with each other since my departure from Pensacola. I had his letters in my breast pocket, and his photograph in the lining of my coat, while, I doubt not [that] I was the especial object of his thoughts when … we dashed at the enemy. He little suspected, however, that the woman to whom his heart and hand were pledged was by his side as he led his men into that bloody fray, for, as I have before explained, he had an acquaintance with me both as a woman and as a man, but did not know that the two were the same. …

It may be thought that, even if I felt no fear for myself, as a woman I should have had some tremors when beholding my lover advancing into the thick of a desperate fight, at the head of his men. The idea of fear, either on his or on my own account, however, never occurred to me at the time. … As for him, I desired for his sake … that the occasion should be a glorious one, and I had a strange delight in following him into the thickest of the melee, and in watching with what undaunted spirit he bore himself throughout the long and sternly-fought battle. …

Our assaults upon the enemy were made with irresistible fury, and we rushed through their lines, literally mowing them down like grain before the mowing machine. … The bullets whistled through the air thick and fast, cutting the trees, and making the branches snap and fly, splintering the fence rails, striking the wagons, or sending some poor soldier suddenly to the earth. A corporal who was by my side was shot through the heart by a Minie ball. He fell heavily against me, and all my clothing was reddened by his blood. His only words were, “Damn the Yankees! They have killed me.” He was a very handsome young man, only about twenty-two years of age, and his death perfectly infuriated me, as it did his other comrades. …

Shortly before three o’clock in the afternoon, our commander-in-chief, Gen. Johnston, was numbered among the slain. His death, however, was carefully concealed from the army, and was known to but few until the battle was over. He was a great soldier, and his loss was an irreparable one, for had he lived to superintend the conduct of the battle to the end, it is scarcely possible that he would have failed to push his advantages to the utmost, or that he would have committed the mistakes which turned a brilliant and decisive victory into an overwhelming and most maddening defeat.

When the sun set that day the Confederates were successful at every point, and although they had suffered terribly, they had forced the enemy’s lines back almost to the Landing so that there was nothing now left them to do but to make a final successful stand, or else be crowded over the bluffs into the river, just as I had seen them crowded, six months before, at Ball’s Bluff. … There was absolutely no escape for the Federals, and their only hope was to hold their last rallying ground, and to gain time until the arrival of reinforcements. … Why the Confederate advantages were not pushed that night, before [Union] Gen. [Don Carlos] Buell could arrive with his fresh troops, and that Federal army either captured or annihilated … was a mystery to me then, and is now.

Loreta’s Civil War: Strike terror to my soul

Velazquez finds herself at Fort Donelson as U.S. Grant’s Union forces attack and conquer the Confederate fort on the Cumberland River.

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Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Part 16: Velazquez finds herself at Fort Donelson as U.S. Grant’s Union forces attack and conquer the Confederate fort on the Cumberland River.

******

It was really, however, my intention to go back to Virginia, so soon as I could get relieved from the duty I was engaged in, and had that object in my mind when I sent in my resignation, although circumstances occurred that induced me to change my plans. My resignation was accepted without much hesitation at headquarters, and once more, after three weeks service as a military conductor, I was free to follow my own inclinations. …

It was because I thought that there would be a chance for me, ere a great while, in Kentucky, to demonstrate my value either as a soldier or as a spy — for some heavy fighting was undoubtedly about to begin. … I decided to try what could be done at the other end of the Confederate line of operations — at Bowling Green. …

On arrival at Gen. Hardee’s headquarters, I went to him, and showing him my commission, stated that I wanted to go into active service as a scout. He said that he thought there would soon be a chance for me; which was so nearly like the answers I had received from a number of other commanders, that I did not feel especially encouraged by it. …

I was bent, however, notwithstanding the disappointment under which I labored, on showing my devotion to the cause of Southern independence; and, in accordance with my general plan of not letting slip an opportunity of being on hand when there was any real, serious work to be done, I took part in the fight at Woodsonville, on Green River. … The affair at Woodsonville was something of a diversion from the monotony of camp life, but it did not satisfy my ambition or my intense desire for active service; and coming to the conclusion that lounging about Bowling Green and vicinity was much too slim a business for me, I decided to shift my quarters to where there was a somewhat better prospect of hard fighting to be done. It was by this time evident that the Federals intended making a determined attempt to capture Forts Henry and Donelson, on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, and as I felt confident that our people would make a brave and desperate resistance, I resolved to go and take a hand in the approaching battle. …

When I reached Fort Donelson, Gen. Pillow was in command, and preparations for meeting the enemy were being pushed forward with all possible energy. Fort Henry, on the Tennessee River, about fifteen miles from Fort Donelson, had been captured by the Federals, and Donelson, everyone knew, would be the next object of attack, both by land and water. The fortifications were very strong, although, being built for the purpose of commanding the river, they were weaker on the land than on the water side, and the great duty of the hour was the construction of earthworks for the protection of the exposed side. The labor required for the execution of this task was immense, but everyone went at it with a good will, and with a feeling of confidence in our ability to give the Federals the repulse that the garrison of Fort Henry had failed to do, although we were certain that they were about to assail us with a very large force, and that they considered the capture of the position a matter of such vital importance that they would spare no effort to accomplish it. …

My boy Bob and I, therefore, went into the trenches, and commenced to shovel dirt with all possible energy and good will. In the execution of such a task as this, Bob soon proved himself to be a much better man than I was, and he easily threw two shovelfuls to my one, and was apparently in a condition to keep on indefinitely, when I, finding that I had miscalculated my strength, was compelled to desist. There are some things which men can do better than women, and digging entrenchments in the frozen ground is one of them. … I repaired, with aching back and blistered hands, to the headquarters of Gen. Floyd, who had just arrived with his Virginians, where I lounged about, waiting for events so to shape themselves that I would be able to show my fighting qualities to advantage, for nature had evidently intended me for a warrior rather than for a dirt-digger.

The Federals made their appearance on the afternoon of Wednesday the 12th, and they could be seen at various points through the woods making preparations for commencing their attack by stationing themselves in advantageous positions for the environment of the fort on its land side, while the gunboats were to give us the benefit of their heavy ordnance from the river. … The battle opened on Thursday, February 13, 1862, and, as if to increase the discomforts and sufferings of the combatants, the weather, which had been quite moderate and pleasant, suddenly became intensely cold. On Thursday night, about eight o’clock, a tremendous storm of snow and sleet came on, to the full fury of which I was exposed. …

If repentance for my rashness in resolving to play a soldier’s part in the war was ever to overcome me, however, now was the time; and I confess that, as the sleet stung my face, and the biting winds cut me to the bones, I wished myself well out of it, and longed for the siege to be over in some shape, even if relief came only through defeat. The idea of defeat, however, was too intolerable to be thought of, and I banished it from my mind whenever it occurred to me, and argued with myself that I was no better than the thousands of brave men around, who were suffering from these wintry blasts as much as I.

The agonized cries of the wounded, and their piteous calls for water, really affected me more than my own discomfort. … Every now and then a shriek would be uttered that would strike terror to my soul, and make my blood run cold, as the fiercest fighting I had ever seen had not been able to do. I could face the cannon better than I could this bitter weather, and I could suffer myself better than I could bear to hear the cries and groans of these wounded men, lying out on the frozen ground, exposed to the beatings of this pitiless storm. …

In such a situation as the one I am describing, the most singular ideas run through one’s mind. The minutes are lengthened out into hours, and the hours into days, until the reckoning of time is lost; and as the past seems to fade away into a remoteness that makes the painlessness of yesterday appear like the fragment of a happy dream, so the future, when it will all be over, and the commonplace routine of uneventful everyday life will commence again, is as far off as a child’s imagination pictures heaven to be. We actually catch ourselves wondering whether it has always been so, and whether it will always be so until we die, and when we die, whether eternity will have anything better to offer. …

The battle lasted four days and nights, and, although the Confederates fought with desperate valor, they were at length compelled to yield, and the humiliation of defeat was added to the unspeakable sufferings which the conduct of a fierce and prolonged contest like this, in the middle of a winter of unparalleled severity, entailed upon them. Fortune, which had favored the side of the Confederacy in the battles in which I had heretofore been engaged, was against us now, however, and in spite of the fierce resistance which the garrison made to the Federal attacks, the result was, that nothing was left for us to do but surrender.

1862: Ruin and Disaster

Despite her vow to be optimistic as 1862 began, Stone fretted that Louisiana ‘lies powerless at the feet of the enemy.’ And so does Brokenburn, she may have thought to herself. And so do I.

This five-part essay series on Kate Stone and her Civil War is modified from a paper I presented at the New York Military Affairs Symposium in October 2011.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences.

On her birthday, Jan. 8, 1862, Stone swore herself to a new motto: “Live for today. Tomorrow’s night, tomorrow’s cares shall bring to light.”

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

By the end of January, the newspapers confirmed a Confederate defeat in the Battle of Logan’s Cross Roads, in Kentucky, and Stone felt under siege. “The whole Northern Army is now on the move preparing to attack us at all points” she wrote. “The manner in which the North is moving her forces, now that she thinks us surrounded and can give us the annihilating blow, reminds me of a party of hunters crowded around the covert of a deer, and when the lines are drawn and there is no escape, they close in and kill.”

By early February, word came that Fort Henry, a Confederate installation on the Tennessee River, had surrendered to Union Brig. Gen. U.S. Grant. Stone despaired: “The war news is very bad, only defeats — Roanoke Island, the fall of Fort Henry … and shelling of Florence, Ala. We still hold Fort Donelson, though it has been under fire for two days.” But she had little sympathy for the Kentucky region falling under Union domination. “We do not care for those Kentucky towns; they deserve their fate. But Nashville, so true to the South, is a different matter.”

She was even gloomier a day later: “The general impression is that both Nashville and Memphis are doomed. …” But that discouragement was only temporary, and it only served to strengthen her resolve as she accepted the fact that the war would be longer and harder than she originally expected.

Irresistable

A key to Federal strategy was control of the Mississippi River. The struggle became one of the great sagas of the Civil War, and Kate Stone found herself in a front-row seat to that drama. On Feb. 22, 1862, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard — deputy to Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, the commander of the Department of Kentucky and Tennessee — asked the governors of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee to contribute 5,000 to 10,000 men to supplement the defense of the Mississippi River above Memphis. “There have been calls from the governors of all the river states for all the able-bodied men to come forward,” Stone reported.

“Every man is speaking of joining the army, and we fear within a week Brother Coley will away.” By March, Coleman Stone was serving with a cavalry company.

As she watched her brothers, relatives and friends don uniforms and voluntarily ride off to the front, Stone was deeply offended by men who refused to serve in the military. She saw military service as a solution to her own anxiety: “How can a man rest quietly at home when battles are being fought and fields lost and won every day? I would eat my heart away were I a man at home [during] these troubled times.” She saw service as a cornerstone of a man’s character: “I would not trust any man now who stays at home instead of going out to fight for his country.” She saw service in terms of fairness: “With all our relations going out to fight, I am not apt to think other men should sit comfortably at home.”

Stone found uniformed officers enchanting. She once encountered three Confederate officers at a Sunday church service, including “a perfect love of a lieutenant in blue uniform and brass buttons galore. Six feet of soldier with brass buttons is irresistible, and all the girls capitulated at once.” But war’s reality soon stripped the romance from her memory. Two months later, she reported the beautiful lieutenant was dead.

Powerless

Stone always tried to do her part to help the war effort. Emulating her mother, Stone learned how to sew gloves for the soldiers. She hemmed towels. She made hats from palmetto, grass and straw. She sewed pillow cases, underwear, and blankets, and she helped others make uniforms for local units. She never figured out how to make socks, though. “It is too complicated for my head.” Her younger brothers also tried to help with knitting.

Stone wrote that at first she sewed and knitted items that could be shipped to Confederate soldiers. As the war progressed, she limited her efforts to the needs of her relatives on the front. As the home front situation grew more desperate, the fruits of her labor went exclusively to her family. “No one’s dresses are ever considered worn out these days — as long as they can be held together.” In late 1862, she learned how to weave. “It is like going back to the days of the Revolution,” she joked. Later in the war, she resorted to buying linen sheets just to make fresh underwear. “Clothes have been a secondary consideration,” she concluded glumly. “Fashion is an obsolete word, and just to be decently clad is all we expect.”

Union naval blockades grew more effective as the war progressed, choking off or at least delaying vital Confederate imports and exports. Army movements left regional textile economies paralyzed. Prices for daily necessities skyrocketed. Flour grew scarce, and by 1862 Stone reported that it sold for $50 a barrel. She called cake “a most rare occurrence.” A pair of shoes cost $15 to make, and as Brokenburn editor John Q. Anderson noted in a footnote, civilians tried to make their own shoes “out of leather furniture, saddles, belts and trunks.” A pair of boots cost $50. A gallon of brandy cost $40 to $60. Later in the war a knife cost $25. A deck of playing cards cost $5.

Coffee was scarce. People tried to replicate it with parched potatoes, roasted acorns and okra seeds. Quinine, used to treat malaria, was no longer available. As 1863 neared, Stone ominously predicted that “there will soon be no dry goods in the Confederacy.”

Despite her vow to be optimistic as 1862 began, Stone was disgusted with the poor defense of New Orleans, which she called the “greatest City of the South,” and the subsequent collapse of any network to defend Louisiana. The state, she wrote, “lies powerless at the feet of the enemy.” And so does Brokenburn, she may have thought to herself. And so do I.

Dark, silent and sinister

And then the skies over Brokenburn darkened, literally.

As Federal forces closed in, in early May Gen. Beauregard urged Louisiana’s plantations to destroy their cotton to keep it out of Federal hands. Soon, Stone wrote, “as far as we can see are the ascending wreaths of smoke … we hear that all the cotton of the Mississippi Valley … is going up in smoke.” At Brokenburn, Stone’s mother ordered $20,000 worth of cotton to be incinerated. Stone reported that the bales burned for two days. “The planters look upon the burning of the cotton as almost ruin to their fortunes,” she wrote, “but all realize its stern necessity. …”

As a long summer loomed, Stone felt the coils of the Union anaconda tighten around her. Union victories at Fort Donelson and New Orleans brought her closer to the war than ever before. Her aloof observations of what were once far-off battles now turned into bitter rage and iron determination, compounded by the frustration that Union forces cut her off from regular contact with her relatives.

From the conquered Mississippi delta the Federal naval forces moved north. From Memphis, a Union army marched south. Their supreme objective was the conquest of Vicksburg, a target only 30 miles away from the pen with which she recorded her predicament, was their supreme objective. By mid-May, a new, horrifying sound echoed throughout Brokenburn’s tense, humid air: the booming of cannon fire focused on Vicksburg. By late June she saw the enemy for the first time with her own eyes. Union gunboats, “dark, silent and sinister,” sailed past as she watched from a friend’s riverside home.

As she imagined the sacrifices the future may demand, Stone radiated if not confidence then apocalyptic defiance. “How much better to burn one’s cities than to let them fall into the enemy’s hands.”

Capable of any horror

Once Federal commanders decided new canals were needed to bypass the strong Vicksburg batteries, soldiers swept the region’s plantations to find the black workers they needed to do the digging. Stone wrote that her mother instructed all the Brokenburn slaves to immediately hide if Union soldiers entered the property.

The slaves, however, had other intentions. Stone reported that some planters marched their slaves westward, and her mother planned to do the same. Stone worried what the consequences would be when Federal troops arrived, looked for slave workers and found none. “Our fear is when the Yankees come and find them gone they will burn the buildings in revenge. They are capable of any horror. We look forward to their raid with great dread.”

In April, Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan decided he would assault Richmond, Va., and he glacially moved his army up the peninsula between the York and James rivers. On May 31, after contesting the Union advance, Confederate commander Joseph E. Johnston was injured at the Battle of Seven Pines, and field command passed to Robert E. Lee. As McClellan timidly waited for almost a month, Lee, a former military adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, reorganized his new army, strengthened the Richmond defenses, and gathered intelligence. Lee united with forces under Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and on June 26 he launched a massive, week-long, blood-soaked counterattack that hammered the Union army away from Richmond.

News of the Seven Days fighting reached Brokenburn in early July with a list of the units engaged in combat. Stone’s Uncle Bo survived the battles, but her brother’s unit had also been involved. She silently grew frantic as she awaited word of his survival and none came. “Oh, this long, cruel suspense. … Every day adds to my conviction that My Brother is desperately hurt.” In desperation, she studied the faces of any visitors to the house, searching for any shade of sadness a bearer of the worst news would express. By July 24, her anguish evaporated as word finally arrived that William had also survived the Seven Days.

The recent conscription law passed by the Confederate Congress called for all suitable men between ages 18 and 25 to sign up for military service, and Stone reported that Mr. Hazelitt, who taught her brothers, had to close his school and enroll in a military unit. “One of the worst features of the war,” she wrote, “is that is deprives all the boys of an education.”

A bloody death

Federal determination to conquer Vicksburg intensified, and more and more blue-coated troops poured down the Mississippi and raided the area around Brokenburn. By mid-August, Stone illustrated the first wave of refugees moving west. “The planters,” Stone wrote with frustration, “generally are moving back to the hills as fast as possible. There are two families refugeeing in our neighborhood.” As cold winter rain drenched Brokenburn, Stone, emotionally exhausted, wondered what lay ahead for her family and her plantation.

Depression and hopelessness consumed her, “Could I only be content to watch the Future as it unfolds instead of trying to pierce its mystery and mold it to my will, how much happier I would be.”

Adding to the grim feeling in the air was the departure of her brother Walter, who joined their brother Coleman in ranks of the 28th Mississippi.

After Lee’s victory over McClellan on the Peninsula and over John Pope at Manassas, he turned his armies north and invaded Maryland. McClellan, armed with a copy of Lee’s deployment orders, pursued him with uncharacteristic speed. Lee confronted him at Sharpsburg, and their armies fought the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17. After a day of unprecedented bloodshed, Lee was the first to withdraw his stunned army from the area, and Lincoln took the Union non-defeat as an opportunity to announce the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22.

The executive action, theoretically freeing all slaves held in areas still controlled by Confederate forces, would become official on Jan. 1, 1863. By Oct. 1, word of the proclamation reached Brokenburn. Stone was outraged by what she called Lincoln’s “diabolical move. … How can he ever sleep with the shades of the thousands he has consigned to a bloody death darkening his soul?”

Lincoln replaced a recalcitrant McClellan with Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, who foolishly attacked Lee’s impregnable defenses at Fredericksburg, Va., in mid-December. Union forces were massacred. On Christmas Day, an old neighbor came to Brokenburn to report that Stone’s brother William was killed in the battle. “Mamma was at once in despair,” Stone recalled, “and gave way to the wildest grief.”. But the neighbor’s information was wrong. Later the Stone family learned William was only injured. Nevertheless, Stone complained, “our Christmas was ruined.”

Adding to their misery, Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman landed 30,000 troops at Milliken’s Bend, just a few miles from Brokenburn, and a brigade was sent south to destroy the Vicksburg, Shreveport, and Texas Railroad on the eve of his attack on Chickasaw Bluffs, just north of Vicksburg. But brigade’s soldiers did not molest the Stone family, and Stone’s second year of war, later brightened by news of Sherman’s bloody defeat, ended quietly.

******

Works cited or consulted for this essay series:
Faust, Drew Gilpin. Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War. Chapel Hill: North Carolina UP, 1996. Print.
. Southern Stories: Slaveholders in Peace and War. Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri, 1992. Print.
Foote, Shelby. The Civil War: A Narrative. New York: Vintage, 1986. Print.
Johnson, Ludwell H. Red River Campaign: Politics and Cotton in the Civil War. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1958. Print.
Kronk, Gary W. “C/1861 J1 (Great Comet of 1861).” Cometography.com. n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2011.
Long, E.B. and Barbara Long. The Civil War: Day by Day. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971. Print.
McPherson, James M., ed. The Atlas of the Civil War. New York: Macmillan, 1994. Print.
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