Kate Stone’s Civil War: At home again

Stone finally achieves her dream of returning to Brokenburn. But what she tries to reclaim no longer exists. War remade her into a woman who can no longer exist in a plantation world.

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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 finally achieves her dream of returning to Brokenburn. But what she tries to reclaim no longer exists. War remade her into a woman who can no longer exist in a plantation world.

Nov. 16, 1865

Brokenburn

At home again but so many, many changes in two years. It does not seem the same place. The bare echoing rooms, the neglect and defacement of all — though the place is in better repair than most and the stately oaks and the green grass make it look pleasant and cheerful, though gardens, orchards, and fences are mostly swept away. But if the loved ones who passed through its doors could be with us again, we might be happy yet. But never, never, never more echoes back to our hearts like a funeral knell at every thought of the happy past. We must bear our losses as best we can. Nothing is left but to endure. …

Mamma and Johnny went yesterday to Vicksburg. Mamma hopes to make arrangements for planting next year and will buy indispensable housekeeping articles and replenish our wardrobes, now sadly in need, if she can get the money.

We have by dint of much scrubbing and little furniture made the east room habitable. Mamma, Sister, and I occupy that. So vividly it brings back the memory of dear Aunt Laura and little Beverly that I start at the slightest noise and almost fancy I can see them. Jimmy joined us at Shreveport and brought the intelligence of little Elise’s death, poor, frail little flower. No one could look at her tiny white face and fancy her long for the world. She was a dear good baby.

How still and lifeless everything seems. How I fear that the life at Tyler has spoiled us for plantation life. Everything seems sadly out of time. But no thoughts like these. We must be brave, and to give way to the “blues” now is cowardly. … We think we shall be able to pick up enough of our furniture scattered through the country to make two or three rooms habitable and that must suffice us until better. …

Kate Stone’s Civil War: The petted darling

Stone endures some new Arkansas friends as she chokes back tears over the loss of one from Louisiana.

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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 endures some new Arkansas friends as she chokes back tears over the loss of one from Louisiana.

March 20, 1864

Tyler, Texas

I spent last week in the country, just the wildest most remote section of civilization, with the Goddards, who were complete strangers until then. They are from Arkansas and were recommended to us by Julia some time ago.

We had seen some nice-looking strangers at church in the morning. In the afternoon in the midst of our animated chat with Capts. Smithy and Empy, callers came. The young ladies were announced and introduced themselves. They were so cordial and said they had come the twenty miles to meet us and to carry me home with them and were so insistent that I could hardly refuse, particularly as Mamma urged me to go. So I accompanied them next morning just twenty miles from anywhere.

Mr. Goddard has a hat factory established there, and we spent the time as pleasantly as one could in a rough new house perched on a white sandbank in the midst of a limitless pine forest with rather silent strangers. No amusements except riding horseback on rough horses over roads of deep white sand studded with stumps. Only the necessaries, none of the luxuries of life. On the seventh day I was only too glad to come home, though I had to do what none of us had ever done before — drive home in a buggy driven by an old, old Negro man. Mr. Goddard had promised to bring me home at any time. He would not hear of Mamma’s sending for me, and so I was helpless to get away. I shall not forgive any of them for sending me back in that style, and I never want to see any of them again. I was scared all day long, coming so slowly through those lonely woods, few houses on the way. The old driver was as respectful as possible, but the idea of the trip was perfectly repugnant. Mamma did not like it one bit more than I.

Mamma returned Saturday. She succeeded in her mission and My Brother will be transferred to this department if he can get across the river, but that is very doubtful. …

Mamma heard that Kate Nailor is dead, leaving a little child. My darling girl, I can never love any other friend as I have loved her. She was all that was good and pure and most beautiful, and hers was a happy, lovely life but for My Brother whose hand alone had given her myrrh to drink. She was the petted darling of her entire household never refused any wish that could be gratified.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: A sad 1863 ends

As 1863 came to a quiet close, Kate Stone — bathed in early evening firelight and unnerved by the brutal gales of a Texas winter — recorded some final thoughts on her grim situation.

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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)

As 1863 came to a quiet close, Kate Stone — bathed in early evening firelight and unnerved by the brutal gales of a Texas winter — recorded some final thoughts on her grim situation, made less uncomfortable by determined effort and endurance. The sense of loss weighed heavier than ever on her heart and mind. She missed her brothers, her friends, and her Brokenburn neighbors. Her community, she mourned, was “scattered to the four winds.”

Christmas Night

Tyler, Texas

The day has passed most quietly, not a cake, not a visitor. We did have an eggnog but only the servants enjoyed it. Made of mean whiskey, it smacked of Texas. We missed our regular Christmas visitor, Mr. Valentine. He has been with us for the last three years. I wonder where he is now. Only one present on the place, a fine turkey from Mrs. Lawrence. Last Christmas morning when dear little Beverly raised up in bed, and looking at her stockings saw only some homemade toys, bedstead and chairs made of white pine by the plantation carpenter, hid her head, sobbing that she “would not have the ugly common things.”

Aunt Laura told her how bad that was and that poor Santa Claus had done his best but he could not get through the Yankee lines. Presently the little, flushed face was raised and an apologetic little voice faltered out, “Table, I begs your pardon. Bedstead, I begs your pardon. I will keep you and play with you. You is nice.” What a dear little heart she is. …

A cold, moonshiny night, a warm room, and Mamma dozing at ease in our only rocking chair before a bright fire. The chair has accompanied us in all our journeyings since leaving Monroe and, though not a thing of beauty, it is a joy forever and seldom without an occupant. Sad to say, it is showing signs of wear, but it has acted the part of comforter in our weary pilgrimage. …

Mrs. Lawrence has been kind about lending us her books, but we have about finished her library. Have read history until I feel as dry as those old times. Have nearly memorized Tennyson and read and reread our favorite plays in Shakespeare. Fortunately he never grows old. We hope Mr. McGee will be able to get “Harper’s” to us. We wrote to him for it. That would keep us stirred up for awhile at least. The literature of the North is to us what the “flesh pots of Egypt” were to the wandering Israelites — we long for it.

Never a letter but brings news of death. Mr. Catlin is gone. And when we saw him last spring, what a picture of vigorous health he was. I wish we could hear from Lt. Valentine. Our old neighborhood is scattered to the four winds.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Alone in a strange land

To her credit, Stone was capable of seeing beyond the blinding pain of her own sorrow to comprehend the devastation the Civil War brought to other families.

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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)

To her credit, Stone was capable of seeing beyond the blinding pain of her own sorrow to comprehend the devastation the Civil War brought to other families. Widows were left impoverished. Children, friends, husbands, and fathers were all slaughtered in the war’s growing battles. There seemed no end to the deaths.

Dec. 12, 1863

Tyler, Texas

Not to us alone has God sent trouble and sorrow. Nearly every household mourns some loved one lost. Mamma and Mrs. Carson have gone out to see Mrs. Prentice. Her husband died last night, leaving her a childless widow alone in a strange land. He had been ill for a week with pneumonia, and both Johnny and Jimmy have been sitting up with him. A letter from Amelia Scott yesterday tells of the death of her brother Charley on the bloody field of Chickamauga. Allen Bridges, a bright little boy not more than sixteen, Robert Norris, and Mr. Claud Briscoe all fell in the same engagement. Of that band of boys who used to assemble at our house to hunt, play, and amuse themselves, only Joe Carson and Ben Clarkson remain. Mr. Newton, who went with them so much and always on Saturday, fell months ago in some battle. Charley Scott was such a frank, warmhearted young fellow, a heart overflowing with love and kindness, hospitable to the last degree. How his mother and sister will miss him. He was an idol with them both.

Mamma met several old friends in Shreveport and succeeded in getting Mr. Smith’s discharge. … Mamma met at the hotel an old friend, Mrs. Gibson, formerly Mrs. Lane, a very wealthy woman of Vicksburg. Aunt Laura waited on her at her first marriage. Her husband is in jail to be tried for murder, and she has lost five children in the last two years. Mamma says she was never so sorry for anyone. She was looking dreadful and so desolate and unfriended.

A letter from Sarah Wadley. They are back at home. They could not cross the river without great risk so returned to stand the worst the Yankees may do rather than attempt another runaway.

Dec. 13

We missed Joe Carson after he left on December 9. We had to exert ourselves to keep from saddening his homecoming. He had great trouble in getting a furlough, and it was only through Ben Clarkson’s kindness that he got it at last. Ben gave his furlough to Joe, the greatest kindness one soldier can show another. Brother Coley and Joe expected to come together, but it was not to be. Joe stayed a little over two weeks after a ride of ten days to get here. He is returning a shorter route. There is a strong probability of his being stopped in Shreveport and assigned to the army on this side as the authorities are allowing no soldiers to leave the Trans-Mississippi Department. Joe would be delighted as he is very anxious for a transfer to Louisiana, and if he reaches his command will try hard for a transfer. We hope, for his mother’s sake as well as his own, that he may get it. We sent numbers of letters by him.

We heard of My Brother. He has been unable to go into service since Gettysburg, His wound is still unhealed and his arm stiff. He is staying in Lynchburg with Aunt Laura and Mrs. Buckner, Dr. Buckner’s mother. Mamma is using every exertion to get a transfer or discharge for him. She has written to the Secretary of War on the subject. Brother Coley could have gotten a discharge at any time on account of ill-health, but he would not hear of it, and even when he knew that if he recovered his arm would be useless declared his intention of remaining in the army. A gallant spirit.

Uncle Bo is captain on some general’s staff. He makes a dashing officer and must be a favorite with his mess. He has such a gay, joyous nature and is always in a good humor. Wish we knew the general’s name.

It is sickening to hear Joe’s account of the labor and hardships his regiment, the 28th Miss., has undergone in the last year. Sometimes they rode for twenty-two hours without leaving their saddles. Often they had insufficient food, no salt and at the best only beef and cornbread, no tents, sleeping out in the rain and snow, and frequent skirmishes and engagements. No wonder our poor boy sank under it. Joe has never missed a fight. The regiment from being one of the strongest in point of number is reduced to about 400 fit for duty. …

Videos I Love: ‘Life is short. Let’s play a song’

If I have any friends left when I die, perhaps they’ll sing this for me.

I’m occasionally sharing some light thoughts on a few videos that make me smile, make me think, or preferably do both. Read more from this special series here.

The season premiere of one of my favorite TV shows, “Treme,” was recently delayed until fall 2012.

Here’s one of my favorite scenes from the heartbreaking series. A guitar player has been killed, and his friends gather to remember him in the only way they know how. If I have any friends left when I die, perhaps they’ll sing this for me.

Don’t fight back the tears.