Kate Stone’s Civil War: Two distressed damsels

A simple carriage-ride day trip for Kate Stone and her friend Kate turned into a nightmare.

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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)

A simple carriage-ride day trip for Kate Stone and her friend Kate turned into a nightmare.

Oct. 2, 1863

“Elysian Fields,” Lamar County, Texas

We got a late start [on our shopping trip] … with a tired horse and in a drizzling rain, and we had not gone two miles before our bad luck caught up with us.

Uncle Johnny took the wrong road, and we soon found it out and urged him to turn around. He avowed his horror of anything like a backward movement and kept on his chosen way, thinking it would lead into the right road. We traveled on for several miles, leaving home farther and farther away, until at last our united persuasions induced him to turn and cut across the country instead of heading straight for Arkansas, as we were doing. After a wearisome ride thorough stubborn thickets and hogwallow prairie, we at last reached the Paris road and went on rejoicing, but our troubles were just beginning.

A slow pattering rain set in and the buckshot prairie soil grew heavy and more heavy, and our gallant grey was visibly tired. We got out of the Jersey in the pouring rain to cross Sulphur Creek, the bridge like most Texas bridges being only a trap for the unwary. With wet heads and muddy feet, we climbed in again, congratulating ourselves that we would soon be at home. Vain hope. Night came on apace, wrapped in her sable mantle and unbrightened by a star, and we were still four miles from our own hearthstone with a horse only able to drag on in a slow walk. Again we took the wrong road and wandered off on what looked in the uncertain light like a boundless prairie with not a house or road in sight. Again as in the morning we begged Uncle Johnny to turn back to the right road, but true to his expressed principles he refused. We journeyed on, leaving the horse to find his way and straining our eyes to discern a light, but the only lights were those shining up through the tangled grass, the countless glowworms with their gleaming crests. At last plodding along in the Egyptian darkness, the horse gave out entirely, and … we were forced to camp out.

We picketed out the poor horse and wrapped ourselves in bolts of calico and woolen, for we had not a wrap of any kind and it had grown very chilly. Crouching in the Jersey, we resigned ourselves to sweet slumber, but nature’s kind restorer, balmy sleep, was safely sheltered in warm homesteads and was not to be coaxed out on the bleak cold prairie. Twisting and turning we wore the hours away until we discovered that the horse was off picket, and such a chase as Uncle Johnny had to catch him, while we had visions of wandering lost on the prairie for days.

As soon as the first tints of day crimsoned the east, Uncle Johnny set off for home to bring relief to two distressed damsels. The horse was too spent to take us all home. How we laughed at the figure Uncle Johnny presented when he started off with a cushion for a saddle. Kate and I at once went to sleep. Jimmy found us cuddled down in the bottom of the Jersey fast asleep when several hours later he came to our relief with a fresh horse. We reached home at last just before dinner, two forlorn-looking wights and very hungry.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: They call us all renegades

Two carriage accidents, a large rattlesnake, and a dirty house all inspire Stone to call Texas “the dark corner of the Confederacy.”

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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)

Two carriage accidents, a large rattlesnake, and a dirty house all inspire Stone to call Texas “the dark corner of the Confederacy.”

Aug. 30, 1863

“Elysian Fields,” Lamar County, Texas

I must record the first instance of liberality that has come under our notice since entering the state. The first night after leaving Tyler we stayed at a Mr. Fowler’s, a very nice place, and they did not charge us a cent. But we were picked up the next night. We lost our way and traveled until 8 o’clock when we asked to stay at a pretty, large, white house, white only on the outside. I despair of giving any idea of the dirt. We tried to eat without seeing or tasting and to sleep without touching the bed. They gave us coffee, a horrid decoction of burnt wheat and milk without sugar, in saucers and water in the halves of broken bottles. The table was set in the dirtiest of kitchens with a dirt floor and half a dozen half-naked little Negroes and numberless cats and dogs scampering through the room and under the table. The rafters were festooned with old hoop skirts and worn-out, rough boots. It surpassed any place we have been in yet. We certainly had found the dark corner of the Confederacy.

We lost our way again one evening and traveled until way in the night, through a wild woods road dotted with stumps. But it was cool and bright moonlight and really more pleasant than a stuffy dirty room, but the mules and Hoccles did not enjoy it.

Our next adventure was not so pleasant. The mules were rushing down a long, rocky, red hill. Hoccles is a wretched driver and lets them do pretty much as they please when crash! over went the Jersey, and we rolled out on the ground, along with a confused medley of baskets, bundles, palmetto, corn, bonnets, and boxes. Fortunately no serious damage was done, and after a few repairs to the Jersey we journeyed on. Hoccles is a right good tinker for wagons.

But our troubles were not yet over. The mules were trotting briskly along through the white sand, Mamma was asleep sitting in the foot of the Jersey, and I was knitting away, when there was a sudden cluck and tearing sound. I looked up to see the whole top of our devoted Jersey folding back like a fan. While Hoccles was nodding in the sultry heat, we had run into a tree and broken the top nearly entirely off. Mamma gave a groan and exclaimed, “Now Hoccles, just run us over a stump and break the wheels and maybe you will be satisfied. You have broken the bottom racing down the hill. But that would not do you. You had to go and break the top. Now run over a rock and break the wheels and you will be fixed!”

I could not help laughing. It was funny in spite of our bad plight, and poor Hoccles looked so humble and apologetic. We thought he would be forced to take the entire top off, but he was equal to the emergency. With hammer, nail, and strings, he patched it up so it lasted until we reached home. But it is a most forlorn, lopsided affair. If we just had our own good carriage, but we hear it is a smallpox ambulance now.

Our last day we just missed driving over the largest rattlesnake, stretched across the road basking in the sun. It was larger than my arm and had twelve rattles. That frightened us most of all. It might have glided into the carriage as we drove over it. …

A long letter from Julia Street was awaiting me. … She says she hates Arkansas and wants to come to Texas. I am sure she will hate this state ten times more. If she is a wise girl, she will stay where she is as long as possible. The more we see of the people, the less we like them, and every refugee we have seen feels the same way. They call us all renegades in Tyler. It is strange the prejudice that exists all through the state against refugees. We think it is envy, just pure envy. The refugees are a nicer and more refined people than most of those they meet, and they see and resent the difference. That is the way we flatter ourselves. …