Loreta’s Civil War: The approbation of noble-minded men

As the Confederacy collapses and the Civil War comes to an end, Velazquez ponders what she has accomplished for herself and for the South.

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart shared edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 54: As the Confederacy collapses and the Civil War comes to an end, Velazquez ponders what she has accomplished for herself and for the South.

******

After I had been gazing out of the window some little time, watching the crowds of people passing to and fro along the street, an elderly gentleman came up, and after addressing a few courteous words, asked if I was a resident of the city.

I replied that I had arrived only a few hours before from Columbus, Ohio, but that I was a Cuban.

“Ah, indeed,” said he, and, taking a seat beside me, he commenced a conversation by asking, “What do your people think of our war?”

“Oh, they think it is very bad but it is to be hoped that it is about over now.”

“What do you think of the assassination of the president?”

“That is much to be regretted but you know we Spaniards do not take such things quite so much to heart as some people.”

“It will be a bad thing for the South, and especially for some of the Southern leaders — they will be sure to hang Jeff Davis.”

I thought that it was catching before hanging but, concluding that perhaps it would be best not to put all my thoughts into words, I merely said, “I scarcely agree with you, sir. Why should one man die for the deeds of another?”

“Oh, those Southern leaders are all corrupt, and they sent Booth here with instructions to do this deed for the purpose of enabling them to carry out some of their schemes. They are a set of fiends, thieves, and cutthroats from beginning to end, and there is not an honest man among them.”

This excited my anger greatly but, considering that, under the circumstances, discretion was the better part of valor, I stifled my feelings and concluded to cultivate this old gentleman’s acquaintance further with the idea that perhaps I might be able to make use of him in the execution of any plans I might have for the future.

Taking out my watch, I found that it was half past three o’clock, so, excusing myself, I went to my room and put on my hat to go out. On coming downstairs again, I found my new acquaintance in the hall, near the ladies’ entrance. He asked me if I was going shopping, and on my replying that I merely proposed to go as far as the Executive Mansion, for the sake of a little exercise, he suggested that I ought to have an escort and volunteered to accompany me. I thought this rather an impudent proceeding, considering our very brief acquaintance, but not knowing what advantage he might be to me, I accepted his attentions with apparently the best possible grace.

Getting into a street car, we rode as far as the Park, opposite to the War Department. Taking a seat together under the trees, we entered into a conversation which convinced me that the old gentleman was a harmless eccentric who had become suddenly smitten with my charms. He had some very odd notions about politics, finance, and the like, but from such matters as these he ere long began to discourse upon my personal attractions and finally became quite tenderly demonstrative towards me. I believe the old gentleman would have asked me to marry him had I given him the least encouragement, but I was beginning to find him a nuisance and resolved to return to the hotel.

He persisted in going with me, and when, on reaching the hotel, I hastily and somewhat impatiently excused myself, for, looking at my watch, I saw that it was ten minutes past five o’clock, he asked whether he might escort me to supper. I said that he was very kind, and to get rid of him promised that he might have the pleasure of my company to the evening meal if he desired it. I then bounded upstairs, anxious to keep my appointment.

When I reached my room door it was locked, but in a moment more the key was turned, and on going in I found my Confederate officer waiting for me. He said that someone … had tried to get in. He had put his foot against the door to prevent it from being opened whereupon the person outside had worked at the lock for a while with a key. I replied that he need not be alarmed, as it was probably one of the chambermaids with clean towels, and that being unable to obtain admission she had left them on the knob of the door.

He told me that he would be compelled to leave the city at eleven o’clock, and, as he had several things to attend to, if I wanted to send anything by him it would be necessary for me to get it ready at once. I therefore seated myself to write, but, on a moment’s reflection, came to the conclusion that the risk was too great, as he was not unlikely to be captured, and determined to give him a verbal message.

After discussing the situation with as much fullness as we were able … I went to my trunk, and, getting an envelope, sealed twenty dollars in it, and handed it to him, as I knew that he must be short of money. He made some to do about taking it, but on my insisting, he put it in his pocket with an effusion of thanks and said farewell. I turned the gas in the hall down until I saw him out of sight and then prepared myself for my interview with Col. Baker.

On reaching the drawing room, I found there the old gentleman who had been so attentive during the afternoon, and who was apparently waiting for me rather impatiently. We had scarcely started a conversation, however, before Baker came in, with a friend of his from Baltimore. I excused myself with my aged admirer with very little ceremony and retired with Baker and his friend to the private parlor, where we could talk without being disturbed.

As we seated ourselves, Baker said to his friend, “This is one of the best little detectives in the country, but, unfortunately, she does not like the business.”

“Oh, the business does well enough,” I replied, “but I don’t like having bad luck in it.”

“We can’t always have good luck, you know,” said Baker, “but I have a job on hand now which I want you to undertake for me and which I think you can manage if you will do your best. If you succeed, you shall be paid handsomely.”

“Oh, colonel, you are not going to hold out the pay as an inducement for me to serve the country, are you?” I could not say “my country.”

“Oh, d–n the country, you don’t suppose we are going to work for it for nothing, do you? I want you to find this woman who is traveling and figuring as a Confederate agent. Some of my people have been on her track for a long time, but she is a slippery customer, and they have never been able to lay hands on her.”

I knew it was myself Baker meant, especially when he took out of his pocket a picture similar to the one the detective had shown me on the cars a number of months previous.

Baker continued. “Here is her picture. You can take it, for I am having some more struck off. I am going to capture her ladyship this time, dead certain, if she is in the country, as I believe she is.”

My sensations on hearing Baker utter these words cannot be described. What could make him so eager to capture me just at this particular moment? Could he possibly suspect me of having anything to do with the assassination plot? The very idea of such a thing made me sick, for I felt that, excited as everyone then was, an accusation of this kind was all but equivalent to a condemnation. I managed, however, to maintain my composure but inwardly resolved that the best thing I could do would be to leave the country at the earliest possible moment.

After discussing the method of procedure with regard to the search I was to institute for myself, I asked Baker what he thought the result of the trial of the prisoners accused of being implicated in the assassination plot would be.

“Oh,” said he, “they will all hang.”

“Now, I think that will be too bad. Even if Mrs. Surratt is proven to be guilty, they might commute her sentence. It will be a terrible thing to hang a woman, especially as she was not actually one of the assassins. Do you really think she is guilty?”

“No, but the affair was planned in her house, and she is in a good part responsible for it. I am very much in hope that a full confession from her will be obtained by her priest.”

“But, colonel, the evidence against her is all circumstantial, and surely it is not right or lawful to sentence her to death unless it is absolutely proven that she is guilty.”

“In times like this, it would never do to acquit her or to send her to prison, for the mob would take the law into their own hands. Besides, it is necessary to make an example.”

Baker’s friend here said, “I am glad that they got Booth.”

At this remark, I scanned Baker’s countenance closely. He smiled and said, “So am I. I intended to have his body, dead or alive, or a mighty good substitute for it, for no common criminal is worth the reward.”

This was a very queer expression, and it set me to thinking and to studying certain phases of Baker’s character more closely than I had ever done before.

The colonel and his friend then left. I was to have until nine o’clock the next morning to decide whether I would undertake the business he desired me to or not.

The next morning, before Baker came, I received my mail, and in it a letter from my brother, who expected to be in New York in a few days with his wife and child. He proposed that, as we were the sole remnants of our family, we should continue with each other in the future [and] … it would, perhaps, be best for us to go to Europe for a time, until things quieted down somewhat.

This letter decided me upon what course to pursue, and I determined to accept the commission from Baker, thinking by so doing I would more effectually prevent any of his detectives discovering my identity, while so soon as my brother and his family arrived, we would proceed across the Atlantic without further delay and remain there until the time should come when no one would have any object in troubling us.

The army of Joe Johnston, like that of Lee, had been surrendered, and it was evident to me that the war was practically at an end, although I thought it not impossible that it might be prolonged in a desultory manner for some time yet in the West and Southwest. I could plainly see, however, that further fighting would do no good and that the Confederate cause being lost, my mission in connection with it was at an end and my sole duty now was to consider my own welfare and that of my family.

All the bright dreams of four years ago had vanished into nothingness, and yet I could not regret having played the part I did. I loved the South and its people with a greater intensity than ever, while at the same time many of my prejudices against the North had been beaten down by my intercourse with its people during the past eighteen months. There were good and bad in both sections, and I believed that if the good men and women, both North and South, would now earnestly and patriotically unite in an endeavor to carry out the ideas of the founders of the government, they would, ere many years, be able to raise the nation to a pitch of greatness such as had yet been scarcely imagined.

As for my own experiences … they were sufficiently rich and varied in incident to satisfy all my ambitions. I had participated in bloody battles and sieges, and in the thickest of the danger had borne myself so valorously as to win the commendation of men who did not know what fear was, while, in addition to the campaigning I had gone through, my adventures as a spy and secret-service agent were not only of advantage to the cause I had espoused, but they had supplied me with exciting and absorbing work which had demanded the best exercise of all my faculties. I felt that I had reason to be proud of my war record and was the better satisfied with myself, as I knew that I had won the approbation of noble-minded men whose esteem was well worth winning.

When Col. Baker called, therefore, to hear my decision, I told him that I would undertake to do what he desired. He accordingly gave me my instructions, and I was astonished to find how much he knew of some of my movements. He and his men must have been on the point of capturing me many times, and they undoubtedly would have done so had I not had the wit to take the course I did in cultivating his acquaintance. With many self-congratulations at having been successful in escaping thus far … I started for New York on a search for myself ostensibly, but in reality to wait anxiously for the coming of my brother. …

Loreta’s Civil War: A derangement of the plans

As news of President Lincoln’s assassination spreads, Velazquez is torn between respect for the man and loyalty to the Confederacy.

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart shared edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 53: As news of President Lincoln’s assassination spreads, Velazquez is torn between respect for the man and loyalty to the Confederacy.

******

As I did not know and certainly did not appreciate the full extent … of the great disaster that had befallen the Confederate cause, so soon as my business in Wall Street was brought to a conclusion I sought a conference with the agents with whom I had been co-operating. They were inclined to take the gloomiest possible view of the situation. With the fall of Richmond and the surrender of Lee’s army, the people of the North seemed to have concluded that the long contest with the South was over. … It was but natural, perhaps, in view of the intense excitement which prevailed and the unanimity of public opinion that the Confederate agents should have regarded the future of the contest in a great degree from a Northern standpoint and should have been largely influenced by the opinions which they heard expressed on every side.

I, however, was not disposed to give up while a Southern soldier remained in the field, and, after a full discussion of the condition of affairs, I persuaded my companions to view matters as I did. Richmond was our capital, but it was not the whole South, and Lee’s army, important as it was, was far from being the whole Confederate force. Gen. Joe Johnston had an army of veterans very nearly if not quite as large as that of Lee’s and was capable of prolonging the contest for an indefinite period while throughout the West there were a number of detached commands of more or less strength. If these could be united and a junction effected with Johnston, or communication established with him so that they could act in concert, it would be possible to keep the Federals at bay for a good while yet. If the fight was continued resolutely, there was no knowing what might happen to our advantage, for, as we all knew, the people of the North were heartily sick of the war, while England and France were impatient to have it come to an end and would much prefer to have it end with a victory for the Confederates.

Having professed an eager desire to work for the Cause so long as there was a Cause to work for, my associates suggested that I should proceed immediately to Missouri … for the purpose of consulting with the agents in the West with regard to the best methods of proceeding in the present perplexing emergency.

I accepted the mission without hesitation, and, always ready to attend to business of this kind at a moment’s notice, with scarcely more than a change of clothing in my traveling satchel, I was soon speeding westward. … I went to Columbus, Ohio, where I found considerable confusion prevailing on account of the escape of some prisoners. I took rooms at the Neil House and had conferences with several persons concerning the affairs at the South. At an unusually early hour I retired, being very weary on account of having traveled almost without interruption for several days and having lost my sleep the night before but feeling rather happy on account of a Confederate victory of which I had heard.

I was soon asleep, but could not have been so very long before I was awakened by the continual buzzing of the telegraph wires, which were attached to the corner of the hotel. I paid but little attention to this singular noise and dozed off again. A second time I was awakened by it and began to conjecture what could be the matter. I knew that something very important must have happened and thought that the Federals must either have achieved a great victory or have met with a great defeat. I was too tired, however, to attempt any inquiry just then, and, with all sorts of fancies floating in my mind … I dropped off into a sound sleep and did not awaken until morning.

I arose quite early and going to the window saw that the whole front of the building was draped in mourning. Wondering what this demonstration could mean, and thinking that the death of some prominent general must have occurred, but never for a moment suspecting the terrible truth, I made my toilet and descended to find out what was the matter.

A great number of people, notwithstanding the early hour, were moving about the hotel, and a considerable crowd was already assembled in the hall. Still wondering what could have happened, I asked a gentleman whom I met hurrying down stairs what was the news, and he told me that President Lincoln had been assassinated by one J. Wilkes Booth the night before!

This intelligence startled me greatly, both on account of the terrible nature of the crime itself and because I felt that it could work nothing but harm to the South. I also felt for Mr. Lincoln and his family, for I liked him and believed that he was an honest and kindhearted man who tried to do his duty, as he understood it, and who was in every way well disposed towards the South.

Descending to the drawing-room, I found a large number of ladies there, many of whom were weeping, while, in the street, the crowd was increasing, and everyone seemed to be in the greatest excitement. Across the street, the State House was being draped in mourning, while a number of persons already wore mourning emblems. Before the day was over nearly everyone had on some badge of mourning, and nearly every house was draped in a greater or less degree in black. I did not attempt to imitate my neighbors in this matter. I was sincerely sorry both for personal and political reasons that this dreadful event had occurred but, nevertheless, Mr. Lincoln was the enemy of the cause I loved and for which I labored, and it would have been intensely repugnant to my feelings to have made any outward manifestations of mourning. At the same time it is possible I may have mourned in my heart with more sincerity than some of those who were making a greater show of their grief.

This sad event rendered it necessary that I should have an immediate conference with my associates in the East, and I therefore returned as fast as I could to New York, and from thence went on to Washington.

The assassination of Mr. Lincoln had caused a derangement of the plans, and no one knew exactly what had best be done next. I was requested, however, to make a trip west again for the purpose of communicating with certain parties and accordingly departed on my last errand in behalf of the Confederacy.

My business being transacted, I started to return and again found it necessary to pass through Columbus. When I arrived there the body of Mr. Lincoln was lying in state. The town was crowded with people, and it was impossible to get a room at any of the hotels. I went to the Neil House but was obliged to content myself with a bed on the drawing-room floor, my accommodations being, however, quite as sumptuous as those of hundreds of others.

I doubt if the little city ever had so many people in it before, and all day long a stream of men and women poured in at one door and out at the other of the apartment where the casket containing the remains of the president was lying in state. It was a sad sight, and it troubled me greatly — so greatly that I was scarcely able to eat or sleep, for, in addition to my natural grief, I could not prevent my mind from brooding on the possibly detrimental effects which the assassination would have on the fortunes of the South.

After an early breakfast the next morning, I took the eastward-bound train and returned to Washington, and on reaching that city called to see Col. Baker. We exchanged but a few words, as Baker said that he had an engagement, which he would be compelled to attend to immediately, but he would see me at half past seven o’clock at my hotel. …

In the Capitol, I met a Confederate officer whom I knew. I was astonished to see him, and going up, I said, “Oh, what could have induced you to come here at such a critical time as this?”

“To see and hear what is going on,” he replied.

“This is an awful affair.”

“Yes, and it is particularly unfortunate that it should have happened at this particular time.”

“When will you return?”

“Tonight, if somebody less amiable than you are does not recognize me and take me in charge.”

I then asked him if he would carry a letter through for me to my brother, and on his promising me that he would, I made an engagement for him to go to my room in the hotel. He would find the door unlocked and the key inside, and I would meet him at five o’clock or shortly after. I then took leave of him, bidding him be careful of himself, as the people were excited and suspicious and he might easily get himself into serious trouble.

Returning to the hotel, I noticed quite a number of ladies in the drawing-room as I passed by. I thought I would join them for the sake of listening to the different conversations that were going on, thinking that perhaps I might hear something that it would be advantageous for me to know. On reaching my room, therefore, I dressed myself in a handsome black gros-grain silk dress, and putting a gilt band in my hair, descended and took a seat at one of the drawing-room windows facing on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Those around me all appeared to be discussing the tragedy and many absurd theories and speculations were indulged in with regard to it. I was indignant … to hear President Davis and [other] Confederate leaders accused of being the instigators of the crime. I well knew that they were incapable of anything of the kind, and Mr. Davis, in particular, I had reason to believe entertained a high respect for Mr. Lincoln and most sincerely lamented his death and especially the manner of it, feeling that he and the whole people of the South would be … held censurable for something they had nothing to do with and which they were powerless to prevent.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: That land of desolation

Martial optimism mixes with frustration as Stone sits down to sew, only because her seamstress slave has escaped.

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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)

Martial optimism mixes with frustration as Stone sits down to sew, only because her seamstress slave has escaped.

May 29, 1864

Tyler, Texas

The news this morning is enough to make one hurrah. Grant is repulsed with a loss of 45,000 and Johnston is victorious at Dalton with 10,000 prisoners captured. Providence is smiling on our arms this year. Not a defeat. Peace, glorious Peace, will gladden our hearts before the spring flowers bloom again.

It is the fairest of May days and Mamma has gone to church. I stayed with Johnny, who is feeling unwell and is in bed. Mamma will find it unpleasantly warm walking that mile from church. Oh, for a carriage! My ambition reaches out only for a carriage and a riding horse for Johnny, then I shall be satisfied for a little while. I doubt that I was ever intended for a poor girl. Deprivations go hard with me. Mamma has more strength of mind than to worry about it.

A wagon just arrived from the prairie loaded with eatables. … Not a cent of money in the house for a week and only hard fare. As the wagon has come, Jimmy’s trip was useless. All the Negroes are well and affairs are flourishing in that land of desolation. The last few days have been as dismal as a rainy Sunday. We miss Julia. No letters, no visitors, and even the boys have half-way deserted us. … Mrs. Savage grows ruder every day. She is so often rough and unkind in her speech that the boys all stand in terror of her tongue and will hardly venture to go there.

May 30

Our first busy day this spring, sewing on the cloth from the prairie. We are at last using homespun. Hemmed a dozen towels today, looking much like the dish towels of old. Little Sister is to have an outfit from the same piece, but she quite glories in the idea of wearing homespun and coming out a regular Texan. The house servants are charmed to see the cloth. They have been fit suspects for the ragman for weeks. Mamma is readying up Charles, who has been a regular ragamuffin.

We are sorry Adeline, the seamstress, selected this as a fit time to run away. It keeps our hands full. Mamma sent Felix back to Mr. Smith and has Thomas in his place. We think he will be an improvement. …

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: 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. …

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Nobly and fearlessly

In one of her longest and most beautiful passages, a heartbroken Kate Stone mourned the loss of yet another beloved brother.

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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 recalled with heartbreaking beauty the loss of yet another beloved brother.

Note how Bonham stressed Coleman’s dignity and comfort throughout his physical deterioration, his medical care, and his serene death and moonlit funeral. Her letter turned his decline into a graceful ceremonial journey from life to death. Bonham tried to reassure Coleman’s mother that all Christian values were fulfilled (the Bible under the pillow, the constant prayers read, his hopes for divine forgiveness). It promised that Coleman’s masculinity was preserved right to the end (adoring women always nearby to care for him and kiss him, his brave endurance of terrible pain, his resolve bringing grown men to tears). It illustrated his final moments as unforgettable and fitting for a Southern gentleman (no undignified or embarrassing “contortion,” the retention of “his senses,” his grim but religiously devoted bearing).

Dec. 10, 1863

Again we are called on to mourn one of our dearest and best. Brother Coley has crossed the Dark Valley, free from all pain and trouble. He lies at rest and we are desolate indeed. We had heard only the week before that he was well on October 10, when the letter came telling of his death at Clinton, Miss., on September 22. I can do no better than copy Mrs. Bonham’s letter to Mamma, telling how nobly and fearlessly a Christian soldier can die.

Clinton, Miss.

Sept. 25, 1863

My dear Friend:

It is with feelings of deep and heartfelt sorrow that I resume my pen to give you the particulars of the death of your noble son Coleman Stone. He breathed his last at a quarter before ten Tuesday morning, Sept. 22nd. I wrote you a week before his death giving you full particulars up to that time. Then fever set in which with his previous bad health and reduced state and wound combined soon brought him down. The injury, as I stated in my letter, was very serious from the first and never healed as it would have done on a strong, healthy person. Ten days or more before his death I had him moved from the hospital to an office in the yard next me so I could give him constant care. Mrs. Moore was on the other side so some female was with him all the time. I never saw so great a favorite. Everybody in town was interested in him. Someone was constantly calling to see if they could be of service. As for me, I loved him as a son and grieved for him as one. He was one of the most patient beings under suffering I ever saw.

I watched him three weeks and four days. Most of the time he was suffering the most excruciating pain, but he bore it with the most remarkable firmness, and to you, his mother, I bear the comforting assurance that he died a Christian. The first Sabbath after he came to the hospital I went in the evening to see him, fearing he would be lonely, and found him reading his Testament. I sat down by him and read aloud for some time. He kept his Bible lying always under his pillow. I used often to take my work and sit by him, and we had many conversations about you, his brothers, and sisters, and his last wish was that he could see you all once more, calling you all by name.

Two days before his death he told me he wished the doctor to tell him his exact condition. He was perfectly calm and composed. The doctor told him there was no chance of his recovery, and said to him, “Coley, you are a sensible thinking boy and must know the necessity of preparation for another world.” He replied that he did and asked me to send for a minister to converse and pray with him. I at once sent for Mr. Tom Markham, formerly of Vicksburg, who happened to be in this vicinity, and around the couch of that dying soldier boy I passed through some of the most impressive scenes of my life.

At sunrise on Tuesday morning, we all knelt around his bed and heard one of the most feeling and beautiful prayers I ever listened to. When I rose and stood by him my hand on his head, he looked in my face and said, “Mrs. Bonham, I don’t think I have ever been a very wicked boy, but since I have been in the army I have been striving to be a Christian, and I believe God has heard my prayers and has answered them. I believe He has forgiven my many sins, pardoned me, and will take me to my home in Heaven. Write to my dear Mother and tell her what I have said to you. I have longed, oh, so much, to see her and my Brothers and Sisters once more, but as I cannot on this earth I trust they will meet me in Heaven.”

He was perfectly calm and had his senses up to five minutes before his death. There was no struggle, no contortion. I stood on one side of him, Mrs. Moore on the other, Dr. Hunt, Mr. Markham, and several others around. I stooped and with sobs and tears pressed a kiss on his brow. He looked in my eyes and said audibly so that all could hear, “For my Mother.” Again I kissed him, and he said, “For my Sisters.” All were in tears.

The strong, stout man who waited on him turned to the window sobbing aloud. Of that good man, that kindhearted friend, I must speak. Mr. Galloway was sent at Coley’s request to wait on him. He watched by him day and night with the faithfulness and affection of a brother and the tenderness of a woman. He was never for a moment cross or impatient and always ready to gratify Coley’s slightest wish, and he grieved for him as for a brother. I shall always love the man for his devotion to Coley, who, on his death bed, told me he wanted Mr. Galloway to have his horse and other effects. He said his horse belonged to his brother, and Mr. Galloway would give it up if it was ever called for. He also has his pistol. …

I have his Testament and a few books. My Belle never let a morning pass without taking him a bouquet of flowers, which he always enjoyed.

Joe Carson came in the morning of his death. He grieved sorely to think he must give up forever his dearest friend. It made my heart ache to see his sorrow. … We dressed Coley in a nice suit of clothes furnished by a young friend of his, Tom Moore. When Coley was first brought in, Tom said to his mother, “Do all you can for Coley Stone as he is my best friend.” Everything of the best kind was prepared for his burial. I wish it was in my power to describe the funeral, but my pen is inadequate. It took place just after night. The moon was full and shone most beautifully. The burial service by Mr. Markham was long and most appropriate. Nearly all of his company were present and a large number of ladies. A stranger would have thought from the feeling shown that we were each seeing a loved brother or son to his last resting place. All were in tears. That burial was one we will all remember. You have my deepest sympathy in this, your great sorrow.

How many sad hearts and broken households has this terrible war caused.

Most sincerely your friend,
Mary T. Bonham

My heart bleeds for Mamma. Sorrow after sorrow rolls over her, almost more than she can bear, but she is a most brave woman and will not sink beneath the burden.

The moonlight falls clear and cold on the graves of three of those who made the mirth and happiness of our home only two short summers ago, three of the glad young voices are hushed, three of the bright young heads lie low. Now what remains of the high hopes, the stirring plans, and the great ambitions that burned in the hearts and filled the brain of these gallant boys — only a handful of dust. All have fallen in the dew and flower of their youth. Ashburn was the first to sink to his dreamless sleep. For two long years the grass has been springing fresh and green over his grave at Brokenburn. He died Nov. 12, 1861, aged eighteen years and three months. Brother Walter was the next to obey the dread summons. He crossed the black waters of the River of Death Feb. 15, 1863, aged eighteen years and two months, and now in the autumn of the same year Brother Coley has passed from Time to Eternity, his short life numbering twenty years and six months.

What charms can peace have for us when it does come bereft of our nearest and dearest?

They grew in beauty side by side
They filled one home with glee,
Their graves are scattered far and wide
By mountain, grove, and sea.

We can never return to the bright and happy home of three years ago. These three graves darken the threshold.

Mamma was in Shreveport when we received the letter and did not get home for several days. She had heard all were well and came home cheerful and happy to be greeted by such news. It was an awful shock to her.

Brother Coley had such a brave and dauntless spirit in that frail, sensitive body, a love for all that was pure and noble, and a scathing contempt for all that was low and mean. Joe Carson has just left after a short furlough home, and from him we learned all that we can know of Brother Coley. He had not grown to strong manhood, as we fondly imagined, but was still a beardless boy, tall and slender, the same fragile form and unbending energy and spirit that we knew at home. He had been offered a position as 2nd lieutenant in Bragg’s army through Uncle Bo’s influence. He had accepted it and expected to join his new company in a few days, when he received the injury that caused his death.

He was out scouting near Clinton with several others when something scared his horse, a powerful black of Dr. Buckner’s. Brother Coley was sitting sideways on the horse, his leg thrown over the pommel. They had stopped to rest when the horse reared and Brother Coley’s spur caught in the bit as he threw his leg over, and the horse fell backward crushing Brother Coley’s shoulder and arm against a root — a most painful injury. He was a splendid rider, and to meet death that way. He had been in many skirmishes and engagements but never was wounded. In the desperate charge that the 28th Mississippi, made in the Franklin, Tenn., battle, he had his cartridge box shot off and fell from his horse but was unhurt. Once acting as regimental orderly he rode through a fire of shot and shell that none of the couriers would brave to carry orders to his squadron.

Brother Walter was only once under fire but acted with such coolness and courage that he was highly complimented by his officers. A small party were sleeping at a picket post on the bank of a little stream when they were surprised by the enemy, who opened artillery fire across the creek. The men rushed for their horses and galloped off, but Brother Walter after mounting rode to the banks of the stream and fired several shots at the gunners, saying afterwards, “Boys, I was just obliged to take a few shots at them.”

Well may we be proud of our brave boys, and we can never be grateful enough to the kind friends at Clinton who nursed Brother Coley so tenderly.