Kate Stone’s Civil War: I was young again

Stone’s last three entries in her diary are from September 1867 and 1868. They form a somber epilogue to her chaotic journey. They capture a bitter reflection of a shattered Southern slaveholding society, adrift, confused, and afraid of a world in which they no longer rule.

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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)

Stone’s last three entries in her diary are from September 1867 and 1868. They form a somber epilogue to her chaotic Civil War journey. They capture a bitter reflection of a shattered Southern slaveholding society, adrift, confused, and afraid of a world in which they no longer rule.

Read her first entry in this series here.

Sept. 22, 1867

Brokenburn

A long silence and a year of hard endeavor to raise a crop, reconstruct the place with the problem of hired labor, high water, and cotton worms. Mamma had little trouble in getting advances in New Orleans to plant. Cotton is so high that merchants are anxious to advance to put in a crop, and there is much Northern capital seeking investment in that field. … The Negroes demanded high wages, from $20 to $25 for men, in addition to the old rations of sugar, rice, tobacco, molasses, and sometimes hams. Many of the old hands left, and My Brother went to New Orleans and brought back a number of ex-Negro soldiers, who strutted around in their uniforms and were hard to control. I was deadly afraid of them.

During the spring while Mamma and I were in New Orleans (Mamma on business and she took me for my pleasure), and Uncle Bo and My Brother and Jimmy were away for a few hours, Johnny had a fight with a young Negro in the field, shot and came near killing him, and was mobbed in return. Johnny would have been killed but for the stand one of the Negroes made for him and Uncle Bo’s opportune arrival just as the Negroes brought him to the house a howling, cursing mob with the women shrieking, “Kill him!” and all brandishing pistols and guns. It came near breaking up the planting, and it is a pity it did not as it turned out. Johnny had to be sent away. He was at school near Clinton [Miss.] and the Negroes quieted down and after some weeks the wounded boy recovered, greatly to Johnny’s relief. He never speaks now of killing people as he formerly had a habit of doing. He came home when school closed and there was no further trouble.

Then the water came up and we were nearly overflowed. The cotton planted was very late, and when it was looking as luxuriant and promising as possible and we saw ease of mind before us, the worms came. In a few days the fields were blackened like fire had swept over them. We made about twenty bales and spent $25,000 doing it. What most distresses me is that none of that money went for our personal comfort. All of it went to the Negroes. Mamma would buy only bare necessaries for the table and plainest clothes for the family. Not a luxury, no furniture, carpets, or anything. We are worse off for those things than even in Texas and such a sum spent! But Mamma said it was not honest to spend the money on anything but making the crop. All in this section have suffered in the same way, and for awhile they seemed stunned by their misfortunes. But now the reaction has come, and all are taking what pleasure offers.

Old neighbors and new ones have come in and all seemed to be anxious to be together and talk over their trials and tribulations. There has been much visiting and various picnics and fish frys. I would not go at first. I felt like I did not want to see anybody or ever dance again. I felt fully forty years old, but Mamma made me go after a good cry. Once there, I was compelled to exert myself, and soon I was enjoying it all. The burden of some of the years slipped from my shoulders, and I was young again. It was pleasant to talk nonsense, to be flattered though one knew it was flattery, and to be complimented and fussed over. So since then, Mamma, the boys, and all of us have been going to everything and have found even poverty in company more bearable than when suffered alone. …

September 1868

Rose Hill

In January My Brother rented this place knowing that Brokenburn would be again overflowed, and we moved out the latter part of the month. My Brother lost money again last year planting, and this year he determined to farm, planting a little of everything.

Johnny and Jimmy are both at home, and having nothing to do pulled off their coats and rolled up their sleeves and went to work to raise a crop of corn and potatoes for themselves. They have succeeded well as they will clear several hundred dollars.

We all regret so much Jimmy’s refusal to go buck to the hospital. … We fear he is throwing away the best chance of his life. The boys are so hot and tired when they come in from the fields. …

Sept. 28, 1868

Rose Hill

Mother has been in Vicksburg for a month on a visit to Aunt Sarah. It is her first outing for eighteen months. We hope it will benefit her — her health has been bad for more than a year. She is seldom out of bed more than a week at a time. It took great persuasion and the pointed urging of the whole family to induce her to go on this visit that Aunt Sarah has been begging her to take for months.

Jimmy is now on the wharf boat, Johnny at Omega, and Sister, My Brother, and I have it all our own way with but little to do. My Brother is making an excellent crop and is much more cheerful. …

How we wish Sister could be sent off to school for two years, but it has been impossible. No money. … Let us hope that now the current will change and success will be our portion, as the outlook is brighter than for three years.

This is a pleasant neighborhood … and everybody has been kind and polite about calling and coming in at all times. [The other day we] had another of those inevitable dances that have been given so often this summer. Mary and Katie Byrnes, Louise Meagher, and the other girls never seem to tire of them, but they wear me out — such a sameness. I doubt not that I am getting too old for such gaieties. The men and boys about here are so silly and boyish in conversation. …

It has been an enjoyable life since we came here in January. It is a pleasant enough cottage house, after we got it thoroughly cleaned. There is a lovely little flower yard and a splendid orchard, and the kindest and most sociable neighbors with various little entertainments and dances. …We have new books and papers ad libitum, a luxury we missed for years.

My Brother has just sent Mamma money to buy our winter clothes, and Sister and I are jubilant at the prospect of new dresses and bonnets. We have lived on very little of late years, little bought that was not absolutely necessary. They have dressed me better than any of the others. I have not wanted for anything indispensable for a young lady, but the only money I have spent really as I wished was five dollars of the ten Uncle Bob gave me when Mamma and I went to New Orleans three winters ago. …

What splendid fellows my brothers are. They are all so good to us and such handsome boys. Sister looks almost the same, scarcely older than three years ago. We hope she can go to school this fall and make her debut next fall. If not, I shall beg Mamma to put long dresses … on her and bring her out this winter. She has a gay cheerful nature, and I hope will have a happy girlhood.

Mamma’s bright hopeful spirit never change. She is us always the ruling power with us all, the center and light of our home. How much she will have to tell us on her return, and maybe Aunt Sarah will come with her.

Well, this is the last page of the book that has gone with me through all our journeying. Looking back to the beginning so many years ago, I realize what an unthankful, wicked girl I was not to be supremely happy. With youth, health, and everything surrounding me for comfort and happiness. with unmistakable blessings, I was yet an unsatisfied, discontented girl. It has taken trouble to teach me my faults, and how earnestly I try now to enjoy instead of repine, to be thankful instead of fault-finding. I will try always to see the silver lining to the cloud. All my life I have been surrounded with love and care, far more than I deserved, and I will try in the future to be more worthy of the blessings that brighten my pathway.

So this is the end — shall I ever care to write again?

FINIS

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Only sadness and tears

The Confederacy has collapsed, and Stone watches in horror as postwar chaos sweeps over East Texas.

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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)

The Confederacy has collapsed, and Stone watches in horror as postwar chaos sweeps over East Texas.

May 27, 1865

Tyler, Texas

Anarchy and confusion reign over all. Jayhawking is the order of the day. The soldiers are disbanding throughout the Department and seizing Government property wherever they can find it. The Government offices here have been sacked. All work is over and all who can are going home. At Shreveport the demoralization is worse even than here. The officers are scattering to the four winds, and Jayhawkers and private soldiers are stopping and robbing them whenever found. Col. Bradforte was the first here to desert his post. We hear that the mules were taken from his ambulance and wagon. Maj. Rhett, Gen. Hayes, and indeed everyone we hear of has suffered the same fate while fleeing to the interior of the state or to Mexico. Gen. Kirby Smith has also been robbed. We do not know but suppose this Department has surrendered as the soldiers have disbanded and are making their way home. We are still in ignorance of what disposal is to be made of us by our conquerors. The excitement in the town is so great we can think and live only in the present. Everything is in a turmoil. … We are all glad to see the soldiers divide what Government property they can find, if they will only stop there and not let the desperadoes rob the citizens as they may do. Some of the people deserve robbing, for they joined with the soldiers in sacking the Departments.

Jimmy came home Thursday no longer a soldier but a poor discouraged boy. All his regiment went home but twenty and the colonel disbanded them. Jimmy and the three Carson boys were of the twenty who stood to their guns. Will Carson came back with him. Jimmy and Joe Carson went out to the river to see the prospect there. We are so glad to have Jimmy safe at home, but oh, what a different homecoming from what we anticipated when he enlisted. No feasting. No rejoicing. Only sadness and tears.

Johnny starts for Brokenburn tomorrow to get Uncle Bob to plant some corn if possible so that there will be something when we move back in the fall. Of course we cannot go now and leave the crop on the prairie. It is our only hope for a cent of money. Johnny will also go on to Vicksburg and try to get news of My Brother and Uncle Bo. The long suspense is very trying and Mamma longs so for My Brother io get back to help her. She feels so at sea in these new conditions of life. … Jimmy goes to the prairie in a few days to see what money can be raised there. I took him yesterday to see half of the girls in town. Determined to lose no time, he and Johnny are escorting two of them to church this morning. Jimmy got back nearly out of clothes of course, and Johnny, after his last trip, is nearly as badly off, having swapped off about every respectable article he had. We had to go to work at once. Fortunately Mamma has secured some blue linen from the department stores and had plenty of homespun. Shirts are the most difficult to get.

Mamma keeps us in terror threatening to move to the farm until fall. It is about like being in jail with the privilege of looking through the window, but she can decide nothing until she sees or hears from My Brother.

Lt. Holmes’ mess is broken up, and he is staying with us until he and Lt. Dupre can get off together. Traveling is so unsafe just now for officers. But Lt. Dupre is so anxious to get back to his wife, they will leave in a day or so. Their part of the spoils in lieu of pay is an ambulance and pair of mules with which they will journey to Monroe together. The officials have burned all their papers. …

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Pride must have a fall

Death, Yankee prisoners, pride grounded into nothing … Stone stared into a quiet Texas night with fear and sadness.

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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)

Death, Yankee prisoners, pride grounded into nothing … Stone stared into a quiet Texas night with fear and sadness.

Nov. 13, 1863

Tyler, Texas

This week Mrs. Carson, the little girls, and I are alone. Mamma has gone to Shreveport, taking Eddie Carson with her. Mr. Smith is again taken into the militia, thanks to Maj. Little’s dislike of refugees, and Mamma has gone to the headquarters of Gen. Kirby Smith to try to get a permanent discharge for Mr. Smith.

The turnout for the trip was essentially Texas: the high Jersey with white body and black curtains and two shaggy mules with shuck collars. It was anything but stylish. They say pride must have a fall, and ours has had many a tumble since we left home. How I hope Mamma will be able to buy a carriage this trip.

Jimmy has gone to the prairie to stay during Mr. Smith’s absence. He started off with a dreadful toothache, on a rough little mule. Hope he will return free of toothache and on a horse. We rode with him as far as the Yankee camp. Mamma had some business with the commanding officer, and we went out with her. A number of the prisoners escaped the other day, and the townspeople are very apprehensive of their burning the town. They put out guards every night, and they take turns in guarding the prisoners. One of the prisoners was shot yesterday for disobedience of orders. He died in a few hours. …

Death does not seem half so terrible as it did long ago. We have grown used to it. Never a letter but brings news of the death of someone we knew. Another girlhood friend off the list, but none do I regret like Kate Nailor, the first and best. …

Alone as we are tonight, I feel a little afraid of the escaped Yankees. So I will put out the light, pull the cover over my head, and go to sleep.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: The war inches closer

Stone lived in consistent dread of the violence of war.

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)

Stone lived in consistent dread of the violence of war. The demands of war were already very evident all around her. Her brother and uncle were away serving the armies. Her mother’s foresight called for austerity measures — a war garden, cutbacks on travel — to get the family through lean times ahead. Stone noticed the unavailability of certain fabrics critical to military uniforms, and as she sewed and repaired clothing, she made do with other materials. Stone carefully followed the news from the military and diplomatic fronts and hoped for the best. But bad news came in late September 1861.

Sept. 27

No mail this week, but a rumor that 12,000 Federalists have taken possession of Mississippi City. That is bringing the war near us. How we wish the authorities could carry the war into Washington City. What an awful responsibility rests on our statesmen and generals. May God give them wisdom.