Kate Stone’s Civil War: Whipped unmercifully

As the month closed, Stone’s natural defiance blossomed, she complained about the slaves, and a comet appeared in the sky.

From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, the daughter of Louisiana cotton plantation owners who chronicled her turbulent life 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)

On June 18, 1861, tragic news darkened the pages of Stone’s diary:

Aunt Laura is ill. She has just lost a young baby and I know is much distressed and disappointed. She is so devoted to her only child, Beverly, the loveliest little girl I ever saw. Dr. Buckner thinks her perfect and really I believe she is, bodily, mentally, and physically.

The little baby, we hear, was horribly deformed. God in mercy took it, but Aunt Laura knows nothing of its misfortune.

June 19 saw an interesting incident:

Great excitement! About nine in the evening we were sitting on the front gallery and a runaway Negro passed just in front of the house. The boys rushed out after him, but he soon distanced them, and I was glad he escaped. I hate to think how he will be punished, perhaps whipped unmercifully.

The runaways are numerous and bold. We live on a mine that the Negroes are suspected of an intention to spring on the fourth of next month. The information may be true or false, but they are being well watched in every section where there are any suspects. Our faith is with God.

Stone expressed anxiety for the fate of the “runaway Negro” should he be captured. Was it private sympathy for someone hunted by a slaveholding machinery whose brutality she knew all too well? She encapsulated the family’s general paranoia as they wondered about their own fate. How did that uncertainty mutate Southern perspectives on American society, their sense of how the future of their nation should unfold, and their interpretation of God’s plan for their society? Was it easier to simply focus on how many berries they picked for supper that afternoon, whose baby was lost, or who was joining them for dinner that night?

As the month closed, Stone’s natural defiance blossomed, she complained about the slaves, and a comet appeared in the sky:

A beautiful sunshiny day. Just enough rain has fallen to perfect the corn and help the cotton. Surely this year we have had “the early and the latter rains” and the promise of abundant crops. The North cannot starve us, try as they may, and God will aid us in our righteous cause. …

The house servants have been giving a lot of trouble lately — lazy and disobedient. Will have to send one or two to the field and replace them from the quarters if they do not settle down. I suppose the excitement in the air has infected them. The field hands go on without trouble. …

There is a comet visible tonight. We were surprised to see it, as we did not know it was expected. Have seen nothing of it in the papers. It is not very bright but has the appearance of a large star, Venus at her brightest, with a long train of light seen dimly as through a mist. Jimmy first discovered it. Two splendid meteors fell just above it, and the boys said it was a big star chased by little ones trying to regain its orbit.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Holiday wisdom / USS Iowa’s new home / A beautiful comet / Take time for Timeline / Occupy’s disappointment

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. A Sinverguenza Holiday Guide: Gifts, Resolutions and Lessons
By El Guapo | NewsTaco | Dec. 22
“Be forewarned — buy chones that are too big and you think she’s fat. Buy them too small and you’re saying that’s the size she should be. It’s like Russian roulette without the empty chamber.”

2. WWII battleship USS Iowa nearing final voyage
Associated Press | Dec. 22
“The last surviving World War II battleship without a home is docked at the Port of Richmond, where it is being prepared for its journey to the Port of Los Angeles for a new mission as a museum and memorial to Navy might.”

3. Turkey’s Biodiversity, at Risk Yet Largely Ignored
By Jim Robbins | Green :: The New York Times | Dec. 22
“A new paper by biologists in Turkey and the United States warns that while Turkey’s rich biodiversity is unique and globally important, it remains poorly researched and faces growing threats, especially from development.”

4. The Most Amazing View of a Comet Ever
By Brent Rose | Gizmodo | Dec. 22
“When you see someone who’s constantly seeing wondrous things filled with awe, there’s something very special about it.”

5. Why Don’t They Sell Eggnog Year-Round?
By Matthew S. Schwartz | Explainer :: Slate | Dec. 22
“People only buy it when it’s cold outside.”

6. Thinner brains may be more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease
By Karen Kaplan | Booster Shots :: The Los Angeles Times | Dec. 21
“A new study from the journal Neurology reports that an ‘AD signature’ can predict which people with normal brain function are most likely to suffer cognitive decline in the relatively near future.”

7. Christmas, Inc: American trees take over Mexico
By Ioan Grillo | GlobalPost | Dec. 20
“This holiday season alone, more than a million trees have been imported over the Rio Grande to decorate homes celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, Mexico’s Environment Department reported.”

8. Review: Take the time to curate Facebook Timeline
By Anick Jesdanun | Associated Press | Dec. 21
“Once you’re ready for Timeline, you have a week to airbrush your life before it replaces your current profile. That’s not a lot of time when you have (cough, cough) years of your life to go through.”

9. Occupy protests trigger envy, ire in Generation X
By Jennifer Peltz | Associated Press | Dec. 18
“The generation that gave the term ‘slacker’ new meaning is looking with measures of rivalry, regret and tart bewilderment at a movement its successor mobilized in the name of ‘the 99 percent.’ ”

10. Air strikes on Libya 1896
Witness :: BBC News | March 14
“They lasted for less than 12 minutes, but US air strikes against targets in Libya in April 1986, shook the country.”

**************

TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:
1. FUMBLING TOWARDS ECSTASY Sarah McLachlan
2. VICTIM OF LOVE The Eagles
3. JET AIRLINER Steve Miller Band
4. THE WIND CRIES MARY Jimi Hendrix
5. SMALL TOWN Morcheeba
6. I AIN’T SUPERSTITIOUS Rod Stewart
7. TRINITY DUB Massive Attack & Mad Professor
8. MY CULTURE Maxi Jazz & Robbie Williams
9. FALLEN FROM GRACE Mark Lee Scott
10. DESPERADO The Eagles

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