Kate Stone’s Civil War: It makes us shiver

In the absence of hard facts or updated news from the battlefields, rumors of all kinds were rampant.


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)

In the absence of hard facts or updated news from the battlefields, rumors of all kinds were rampant.

Sept. 1, 1863

“Elysian Fields,” Lamar County, Texas

A letter from Jimmy at Jefferson [Texas] on the thirty-first of July, just as he was leaving for Navasota. It is almost time for his return, and Mamma is anxious for him to get back. She wants the wagons to move the Negroes before they hear that the Yankees are coming in from the North, as it is rumored, and before they have a chance to make a break for the Federal lines again.

There are quite a number of Yankee prisoners at Tyler, captured while in command of black troops. It does seem like they ought to be hanged, and they are so impudent too. The detestable creatures!

There is a rumor that Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, and Tennessee have applied for admission into the Union again. Of course, we know it is a base fabrication, but many of the natives believe it firmly. They will believe anything against Louisiana. They seem to hate that state, and we would not give one Louisiana parish for half of Texas.

Our pet rumor is again in the air that France, Spain, and England have recognized the Confederacy. Oh, that it were true. …

We hear that Mrs. White, from whom we rented books and also bought one or two, has leprosy. It makes us shiver to think of it, and our handling her things and Patsy nursing her. We can only hope it is another big story, as it is too late to take precautions.

Sept. 11

Jimmy is back after an absence of seven weeks, and now as soon as we can collect up our scattered goods and chattels we will be off to fresh fields and pastures new. …

The Federals made only a short stay at Monroe, but were busy at the work of destruction. Would like to know how our friends have fared.

Our high hopes of recognition by the European powers are again dashed to the ground. If they just would not start such rumors, raising expectations only to be disappointed.

We paid a three-day visit to Mrs. Slaughter up in the famous Union neighborhood, Honey Grove, where they say there is only one Confederate family. There, everyone you talk to says of course we will be conquered. In Louisiana one rarely heard such an idea expressed.

We attended a large Baptist meeting in the vicinity several times. The interest and excitement were intense. There were often fifty mourners crowded around the altar and the church crowded to suffocation. Never saw so many men in church before, and we have not seen so many men at one time since the war commenced, unless they were soldiers in uniform. The scene at night was most striking: the anxious, excited faces, crowding and surging around the altar; the exalted, earnest mien of the minister; the groans and shrieks and wild prayers of the mourners, mingling with the shouts and hallelujahs of the newly professed; while high over all rises the thunder of a triumphant hymn, borne on many voices. In the background gleam the eager, curious faces of the lookers-on, row on row.

A scene to thrill and interest anyone, but I must take my religion more quietly. It was a country-looking congregation with a sprinkling of nice people. Short dresses, large hoops, and top-knotted sun-bonnets, the style.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: The glory of the family

Stone mourns what has been lost as she finishes her tale of escape. “So passes the glory of the family.”


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 mourns what has been lost as she finishes her tale of escape. “So passes the glory of the family.”

April 27

Near Trenton, La.

Mamma and Johnny are out hunting up bed clothes and anything else buyable since we need everything, and Sister and I are left to ourselves this rainy day. So I may as well finish the recital of our woes.

We left our clothes in care of Uncle Bob who has been as faithful as any white man could be. He is Mamma’s driver on the plantation. And we piled ourselves and our scanty luggage into two rocking, leaky dugouts and pushed off, Jimmy paddling one and Coffee, one of Dr. Carson’s hands, the other. The sight of a body of horsemen in the distance coming our way lent strength to their arms, and as fast as they could ply the paddles we glided through the water. The men came on down the road, and we saw they were Yankee soldiers. But the water was so deep that they could not ride fast and we kept ahead. At last after nearly a mile of this race, the boats shot out into deep water, and we were safe from pursuit. Then what a shout rang out for Jeff Davis and the Confederacy. The men could see and hear us distinctly, and we half expected a volley to come whizzing over the waters. But the boys would not be restrained, and their “Farewell to the Feds!” “Hurrah for Jeff Davis!” and “Ho for Texas!” floated over the waters ’til we were out of sight. The Yankees followed us until their horses were nearly swimming.

After rowing a few miles, we joined Mr. Hardison and his family at the Jones place in the middle of Tensas swamp. They were in a skiff and had been waiting for us for some time. All his family and all his worldly possessions were in that skiff and it was not loaded, so quickly had he been reduced from affluence to poverty. We went on in company and were in the boats for seven hours in the beating rain and the sickening sun, sitting with our feet in the water. Not an inch of land was to be seen during the journey through the dense swamp and over the swift curling currents. The water was sometimes twenty feet deep, rushing and gurgling around the logs and trees. We all stood it very well except Aunt Laura. She was terrified nearly to death and was alternately laughing and crying. She insisted on giving the rower directions and, as he was a slow African, confused him so that he forgot how to pull and ran us into brush piles innumerable. At last he said, “Now, Mistress, you just tell me how to pull and I’ll do it.” So Aunt Laura and Mamma steered the boat viva voce, and he did the hard pulling. I thought they surely would make him turn us over, since a dugout goes over with such ease. At last we came to a clearing, and the boats had to be pulled over the land. We walked a path lined with brambles, and our dresses were nearly torn off. Johnny suffered with fever nearly all day.

As we were passing Mr. Anderson’s, heavy clouds rolled up, and it looked like a coming storm. Aunt Laura and Mrs. Hardison declared they would not go on but would stop right there, and so our boats were headed for the gallery.

They were all under water since it was a little bit of a house, but we carried it by storm without a remonstrance from the owners, who were as kind as could be. Mamma and I were wet nearly to our waists, and the floor looked like it had been scoured when we passed over it. But the dear little lady did not seem to mind it a bit. I had a great bag of Aunt Laura’s gold around my waist. It was very heavy, and just as I stepped on the gallery the belt gave way and it came down with a crash. A foot nearer and it would have fallen in the water, and I suppose we never would have found it. That evening Dr. Carson came to take us to his house but Aunt Laura felt too worn out to go. Mamma stayed with her, and Sister, the boys, and I went on with Dr. Carson. The next day the others joined us there. The whole family received us most kindly, and oh what a relief it was to get to a place of rest and to feel safe once more.

That night there was a most terrific storm which did not even waken me. I slept like the dead. I was completely exhausted by fatigue, excitement, and loss of sleep. … Aunt Laura and Mamma said they were worse frightened by the storm than they had been by anything else. They had not had a brutal Negro man standing on their dress and fingering a pistol a few inches from their heads. I can stand anything but Negro and Yankee raiders. They terrify me out of my wits. …

We spent nearly three weeks at Dr. Carson’s most delightfully. Books, music, rest, and pleasant company charmed the hours away until came news of our great bereavement.

The Negroes at Dr. Carson’s were almost as much demoralized as those on the river. The night after we reached there, a skiff load attempted to escape but were followed and captured after being fired on several times by Jimmy. Fortunately he did not hit any of them.

Now for a list of our losses. All the clothes left in the cart were taken by Mr. Catlin’s Negroes, Uncle Bob being unable to protect them. They comprised most of our underclothes and dresses, all my fine and pretty things, laces, etc., except one silk dress, all our likenesses, and all the little family treasures that we valued greatly. Little Sister did not get off with a change. Mrs. Carson kindly had a suit made for her. Mamma and I have barely a change and the boys have only what they have on. They lost theirs after getting them out here.

Aunt Laura has lost everything except barely enough to do with for a time. Beverly’s things were mostly saved. Aunt Laura’s trunk, packed with a quantity of beautiful clothes, laces, silks, velvets, and so on, was sent to Mr. Anthony’s in the vain hope that it would be safe. We hear, however, that the Yankees, informed by Webster, went there, demanded Mrs. Buckner’s trunk, took it to Grant’s headquarters, and that is the last of it. Some say they just broke it open and divided up the spoils. Both Mamma and Aunt Laura have lost all their bedding, table linen, etc. Our house is stripped of furniture, carpets, books, piano, and everything else, the carriage, buggy, harness, and everything of that kind. Also they have thirty Negroes still on the place we shall probably never see again.

Mamma regrets coming away as she did, but what else could she do? We could not stand more than anyone else, and nearly everyone left before we did. Our mistake was in not moving everything in the fall. Charles and Annie were the only two Negroes who would come with us, and they are only half-grown. So passes the glory of the family.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Flaming cheeks and flashing eyes

Kate Stone at last recounts why she and her family fled from Brokenburn.


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)

Kate Stone at last recounts why she and her family fled from Brokenburn.

April 25

Near Trenton, La.

Affairs look dark for our Confederacy just now. … This country is filled with refugees. Nearly all our friends are back here or on their way to Texas, where we hope to be before long.

Out here the prices asked for everything are enormous. The people of Monroe seem determined to fleece the refugees. It cost us $3,000 to get a four-horse hack to bring us from Monroe here four miles.

Having no other way of amusing myself, I may as well write the account of our flight from home [Brokenburn] and our subsequent adventures.

On Thursday, March 26, hearing that Mr. Hardison had returned from Monroe, Sister and I walked up in the afternoon to hear what news he had brought. As we approached the house, it struck me that something was wrong. As we were going through the garden George Richards came out and told us a party of Yankees and armed Negroes had just left, carrying with them every Negro on the place, most of Mrs. Hardison’s and the children’s clothes, and all the provisions they could manage. They were led by Charles, Mr. Hardison’s most trusted servant, and they were all vowing vengeance against Mr. Hardison. They said they would shoot him on sight for moving two of his Negroes a few days before. Mr. Hardison had fortunately seen them coming and, knowing he would be arrested or perhaps killed as a conscript officer, had escaped to the woods.

We walked in and found Mrs. Hardison and the children all much excited and very angry, with flaming cheeks and flashing eyes. The Negroes had been very impertinent. The first armed Negroes they had ever seen. Just as we were seated someone called out the Yankees were coming again. It was too late to run. All we could do was to shut ourselves up together in one room, hoping they would not come in. George Richards was on the gallery. In a minute we heard the gate open and shut, rough hoarse voices, a volley of oaths, and then a cry, “Shoot him, curse him! Shoot him! Get out of the way so I can get him.” Looking out of the window, we saw three fiendish-looking, black Negroes standing around George Richards, two with their guns leveled and almost touching his breast. He was deathly pale but did not move. We thought he would be killed instantly, and I shut my eyes that I might not see it. But after a few words from George, which we could not hear, and another volley of curses, they lowered their guns and rushed into the house “to look for guns” they said, but only to rob and terrorize us. The Negroes were completely armed and there was no white man with them. We heard them ranging all through the house, cursing and laughing, and breaking things open.

Directly one came bursting into our room, a big black wretch, with the most insolent swagger, talking all the time in a most insulting manner. He went through all the drawers and wardrobe taking anything he fancied, all the time with a cocked pistol in his hand. Cursing and making the most awful threats against Mr. Hardison if they ever caught him, he [walked] up to the bed where the baby was sleeping. Raiding the bar, he started to take the child, saying as he waved the pistol, “I ought to kill him. He may grow up to be a [guerrilla]. Kill him.” Mrs. Hardison sprang to his side, snatched the baby up, and shrieked, “Don’t kill my baby. Don’t kill him.”

The Negro turned away with a laugh and came over where I was sitting with Little Sister crouched close to me holding my hand. He came right up to us, standing on the hem of my dress while he looked me slowly over, gesticulating and snapping his pistol. He stood there about a minute, I suppose. It seemed to me an age. I felt like I would die should he touch me. I did not look up or move, and Little Sister was as still as if petrified. In an instant more he turned away with a most diabolical laugh, gathered up his plunder, and went out. I was never so frightened in my life. Mrs. Hardison said we were both as white as marble, and she was sure I would faint. What a wave of thankfulness swept over us when he went out and slammed the door. In the meanwhile, the other Negroes were rummaging the house, ransacking it from top to bottom, destroying all the provisions they could not carry away, and sprinkling a white powder into the cisterns and over everything they left. We never knew whether it was poison or not.

The Negroes called and stormed and cursed through the house, calling each other “Captain” and “Lieutenant” until it nearly froze the blood in our veins, and every minute we expected them to break into our room again. I was completely unnerved. I did not think I could feel so frightened. …

After carrying on this way about two hours they lit matches, stuck them about the hall, and then leisurely took themselves off, loaded down with booty. We rushed around, put out all the matches, gathered up the few little articles left, and started at once for home. Since the Negroes declared as they moved off that they were coming back in a little while and burn every house on the place, I took the baby and Mrs. Hardison, Mrs. Alexander, and the children with George and Mr. McPherson gathered up everything of any value left, and we hurried home, reaching there spent with excitement. Mrs. Hardison was almost crazy. …

We made preparations that night to move at daybreak, but something deterred us. Mamma thought she would go out and get letters of protection but later abandoned the idea. It was then too late for us to get off, and we spent a night and day of terror. The next evening the Negroes from all the inhabited places around commenced flocking to Mr. Hardison’s, and they completely sacked the place in broad daylight, passing our gate loaded down with plunder until twelve at night. That more than anything else frightened Mamma and determined her to leave, though at the sacrifice of everything we owned.

We made arrangements to get Dr. Carson’s skiffs and sent Webster around collecting saddles and bridles. On account of the water we could go only on horseback to take the skiffs.

With much difficulty we got everything ready for the start at midnight. Aunt Laura was the only one who did not want to go. She begged Mamma to let her and Beverly stay, saying that she would get old Mr. Valentine to stay with her, but of course Mamma could not allow that. The boys brought in everything we had buried out, except Aunt Laura’s silver. That had to be left packed in a barrel and buried in the yard. The boys had done it one very dark night, when they hoped all the Negroes were in their cabins as it was raining. All the servants behaved well enough except Webster, but you could see it was only because they knew we would soon be gone. We were only on sufferance.

Two days longer and we think they would all have gone to the Yankees, most probably robbing and insulting us before they left. About eleven of the boys went off with their guns to have the horses saddled and brought up. After a good deal of trouble, they came. The boys carried their guns all the time. Without them I think we would never have gotten off. Webster tried every artifice to get hold of one of them, but the boys never relaxed their watch. The night was cloudy and dark with occasional claps of thunder, but we had to go then or never. We knew the news would be carried to camp, and the Yankees had forbidden citizens to leave their places. …

It was too dark to see the road but Johnny led off, and each one followed the shadow in front. … As we opened gates and rode through place after place in perfect silence, not a light was visible anywhere. After passing Out Post, the road was so bad and it was so dark that we were forced to wait for daylight. We dismounted in the middle of the road, and to Aunt Laura’s surprise and amazement Mamma lay her head down in Johnny’s lap and went sound asleep. Riding in the dark made her sick, and she was worn out with excitement and loss of sleep. …

When we reached within a mile of our place of debarkation, the road became impassable, and we struck off into the woods. The cart had to be left there and the baggage carried on by mules. After much trouble, getting lost and riding through water up to our saddle skirts I actually swam a bayou with Beverly in my arms we succeeded in getting all of our party and a little of our baggage to the landing place below Mrs. Stevens’. We sent Webster back to the cart for the baggage, and no sooner was he out of sight than he mounted a horse and set off for home. … Thus by his treachery we lost almost everything we brought away with us, for when we heard it, it was already too late to send back for the things. …

Finish this another day.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: The greatest villian

Nothing disgusted Kate Stone more than her family’s slaves taking control of Brokenburn, the family plantation.


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)

By late April 1863, Kate Stone, still too weary to explain how or why her family evacuated their Louisiana plantation, grappled with the harsh realities of her new existence. She marveled at fellow Southern refugees’ desperate attempts to retain their small comforts of life in the midst of war. She viewed slaves — freed, armed, and empowered — as a far greater threat than the Union troops that swarmed over the flooded region. Nothing disgusted her more than her family’s slaves taking control of Brokenburn, the family plantation.

April 21

Near Monroe, La.

We have reached this place of refuge three weeks after deserting our home. We have come by short but not easy stages. Wednesday we left Dr. Carson’s Anchorage place at sunrise, going in skiffs to Mr. Templeton’s only a few miles and hoping to catch Mr. Gaddis’ boat. The boat had gone on, and Mr. and Mrs. Templeton begged us to stay with them until Friday, when the boat would make another trip. We were only too glad to do so. There was absolutely nothing else we could do. The whole country is a sheet of water from the levees being down in every direction. There is not a skiff to be borrowed or bought at any price.

The whole family, consisting of Col. and Mrs. Templeton and their two half-grown daughters, Mary and Emma, were as kind as possible to us. They did all they could to help us on. We were sorry to tell the Carsons good-bye. They were so kind, but we hope to meet them very soon. Col. Templeton’s is a pleasant home. It is a long, low house with a large yard, shaded with forest trees, cool, green and homelike. It is comfortable within but with no pretensions. They set an excellent table and have a well-filled larder. Most pleasant of all to storm-tossed wanderers was a warm welcome. The only thing I did not like: My bedfellow was a “Yankee school marm.” She professed to be a true Southerner in feeling, but when she knelt to pray I could not help speculating whether her petitions were for our success or the success of our enemies.

Emma Templeton is a little beauty, a dimpled blonde. Mary is a tall, pale, dark-eyed girl. Both of them are idolized by their parents. Mr. Hornwasher is their music and drawing teacher. He did not join the army. He had enough of war in his own country, no doubt.

Friday we came down to Delhi in an immense dugout, a trip of six hours. All seven of us — Mamma, Aunt Laura, Sister, Beverly, I, and the two boys — with an assorted cargo of corn, bacon, hams, Negroes, their baggage, dogs and cats, two or three men, and our scant baggage. It was a dreadful trip. We were very crowded, the hot sun beaming on us as we were creeping down the bayou, hungry and tired. There was a very strong reflection from the water, and one of our poor Negroes was sick, groaning most of the way, and could not be made comfortable. We were glad enough to get out at the railroad bridge and walk the mile to reach Delhi.

The scene there beggars description: such crowds of Negroes of all ages and sizes, wagons, mules, horses, dogs, baggage, and furniture of every description, very little of it packed. It was just thrown in promiscuous heaps, pianos, tables, chairs, rosewood sofas, wardrobes, parlor sets, with pots, kettles, stoves, beds and bedding, bowls and pitchers, and everything of the kind just thrown pell-mell here and there, with soldiers, drunk and sober, combing over it all, shouting and laughing. While thronging everywhere were refugees — men, women, and children, everybody and everything — trying to get on the cars, all fleeing from the Yankees or worse still, the Negroes.

All have lost heavily, some with princely estates and hundreds of Negroes, escaping with ten or twenty of their hands and only the clothes they have on. Others brought out clothes and household effects but no Negroes, and still others sacrificed everything to run their Negroes to a place of safety.

Everybody was animated and excited. All had their own tales to tell of the Yankee insolence and oppression and their hairbreadth escapes. All were eager to tell their own stories of hardship and contrivance, and everybody sympathized with everybody else. All were willing to lend a helping hand and to give advice to anybody on any subject. Nearly everybody took his trials cheerfully, making a joke of them, and nearly all are bound for Texas. Nobody “crying over spilled milk.” Not a tear all day, though one knows there were heavy hearts bravely borne.

We got off from Delhi about sunset and reached Monroe after twelve. Nearly all remained on the cars until daylight … it was impossible to get accommodations in town. It was amusing to watch the people wake up in the morning, wash their faces, smooth at their hair, and go to eating breakfast — leisurely and with as much sangfroid as though in their breakfast rooms at home. Everyone traveling on the cars now carries his own provisions, as you can get nothing if you do not, and no room if you get off. …

We drove through Monroe, which seems to be a beautiful little town, but I was suffering with fever too much to like anything. The road up the Ouachita was lovely. It is a clear bright stream with forest-shaded banks. The hard dry road was appreciated after the mud and water of the last months. The profusion of catalpa trees, all in full bloom, lining the streets of Monroe was indescribably fair in the early morning light. The deep green leaves seemed heaped with pyramids of snow. …

We crossed the river at Trenton on a flat and came out two miles in the hills to this place, Mr. Deane’s, but we hope to be here only a few days. The woods around here are beautiful with quantities of wild flowers and fruits. I have been sick in bed until today.

Yesterday Mamma and Jimmy went back to Delhi to get a party of soldiers to go back home with Jimmy and bring out the Negroes left there. All our and Aunt Laura’s house servants, the most valuable we own, were left. … We hear that the Negroes are still on the place, but the furniture and all movables have been carried out to camp by the Yankees. The Negroes quarreled over the division of our clothes. … Webster, our most trusted servant, claims the plantation as his own and is renowned as the greatest villain in the country. If we succeed in getting the Negroes we may say farewell to the buildings as no doubt they will be burned, but that may happen at any time.

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