Loreta’s Civil War: ‘You are she?’

Velazquez tells her fiance the truth about Lt. Harry T. Buford.

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Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share 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.

Part 31: Velazquez tells her fiance the truth about Lt. Harry T. Buford.

******

I was greatly agitated, not only at the sight of his extreme happiness but because I felt that the dreaded hour was now come when I must reveal my secret to him. I loved him most fondly, and it was but yesterday that I had heard from his own lips assurances of his affection for me, the verity of which it was impossible for me to doubt, and yet I dreaded whether his feelings towards me might not change when he heard my story. I felt that they ought not, and I did not believe that they would but I had heard so many men, and good men too, speak harshly with regard to women undertaking to play the role that I had, that my very love gave encouragement to my fears lest [my beau] Capt. De Caulp — when he learned I had been in the army ever since the outbreak of the war, and from before the date of our engagement, disguised as a man — would regard my course with such disapproval that he would refuse to consider the motives which induced me to adopt the course I had taken.

The situation was, for me, painful beyond expression, and although I felt that the secret must now be told, I scarcely knew how to tell it or how to begin an even ordinary friendly conversation with him. The disclosure which I was about to make was, moreover, one that was meant for no other ears than his and was certainly not a proper one for the public ward of the hospital. My first care, therefore, was to get him to a place where we could converse without being overheard, and so I said, “Captain, I congratulate you heartily, and I hope to have the pleasure of meeting with your lady. As you expect to have a visit from her soon, and as you will doubtless want to talk over a great number of confidential matters, don’t you think that it would be better if the doctor were to move you into a private room?”

He said, “Yes, thank you for the suggestion — that is just what I would like. I wish you would tell the doctor I want to see him.”

I accordingly conveyed his message with all possible dispatch, and the doctor very cheerfully granted his request and had him taken to a private chamber. A barber was then sent for, and he was shaved and made to look as nicely as possible, and it touched me deeply to notice what pains he took to make himself presentable in view of the expected arrival of his lady-love, whom, by the anxious manner in which he glanced at the door, he was evidently looking for every minute and almost dreading her arrival before he was ready to receive her.

So soon as we were alone together, I said gravely, “Now, captain, I have something of great importance to say to you before our sweetheart comes.” He looked at me wonderingly, evidently impressed by my manner, and apparently half-fearing that something had occurred to defeat his expectations.

I then knelt by the bedside, and taking from my pocket a picture of himself that he had sent me, and his last letter, said, “Did you ever see these before?”

He glanced at them, recognized them, and turned deadly pale. His hand trembled so that he could scarcely hold the picture and the letter, and looking at me with a scared expression, he gasped, “Yes, they are mine! Where did you get them? Has anything happened?”

“No, no, captain,” I exclaimed. “You must not be frightened — nothing has happened that will be displeasing to you.”

“But I don’t understand,” he said. “How did you get these?”

“Ah!” I said, “that is my secret just now. You know you told me last night, when you showed me the portrait of your lady, that you had not seen her for three years — are you so very sure of that?”

He still failed to comprehend what I meant, and stared at me in astonishment. I, therefore, went to his pocket, and got the picture, and, placing it in his hand, said, “Now take a good look at that, and tell me if you have not seen somebody very much like it inside of three years.”

He looked at the picture, and then at me, with a most puzzled expression, unable to say anything, until I, oppressed with his silence, and unable to endure longer a scene that was becoming most painful to both of us, said, “Well, captain, don’t you thing that the picture of your lady-love looks the least bit like your friend Harry Buford?”

A light seemed to suddenly break upon him — he gasped for breath and sank back overcome on his pillow, the great drops of perspiration standing out all over his forehead. Then, raising himself, he looked me hard in the face, and, grasping my hand tightly, exclaimed, “Can it be possible that you are she?”

“Yes,” said I, clasping his hand still tighter, “I am, indeed, your own Loreta. It was your sweetheart who fought by your side at the great battle of Shiloh, and not only on that occasion, but ever since the outbreak of the war she has been doing a soldier’s work for the cause of the Confederacy. Can you love her a little for that as well as for herself, or will you despise her because she was not willing to stay at home like other women, but undertook to appear on the battlefield in the guise of a man for the purpose of doing a man’s duty?”

“I love you ten times more than ever for this, Loreta!” he said, with a vehemence that brought tears of joy to my eyes. I then went into a long explanation of my reasons for acting as I had done and gave him an outline of my adventures, reserving the details for a future time when he would be stronger and less agitated. He suggested that I should not reveal the secret to any one else just at present, whereupon I proposed that we should continue as we were until the war was over, I to make such arrangements, however, as would enable me to be near him. He would not listen to anything of this kind, but said, “No, my noble lady, I can never permit that — I cannot consent to part from you again until I have called you by the endearing name of wife.” He then burst into tears, and, leaning his face on my shoulder, said, between his sobs, “Oh, Loreta, can it be possible that you have been so far from me and yet so near to me, all this time?”

This interview had agitated both of us greatly, and, as Capt. De Caulp was still very weak, I was somewhat fearful of the consequences to him, so I tore myself away after promising to see him again soon, and requesting him to compose himself and not let his excitement retard his recovery.

The crisis was past for me, and all was well. I had the strongest assurances that a woman could have of the undivided love of as noble a man as ever breathed, and to say that I was supremely happy but faintly expresses what I felt as I left the chamber of Capt. De Caulp. It all seemed like a dream to me, but it was a happy one, and I desired never to awaken from it. I was of too practical and decided a disposition, however, to give way to mere sentiment on such an occasion as this, and the fact that my lover was still confined to a sick-bed rendered it the more important that I should be about and making such preparations as were necessary for our approaching marriage.

I felt quite strong enough to leave the hospital and told Dr. Hay so. He was a little dubious about it but finally consented that I should go out on condition that I would take good care of myself and not attempt to enjoy out-of-door life too much of a sudden. As he was himself about going out as I was prepared to leave the hospital, I walked down the street with him, holding his arm. As we were sauntering along, I asked him, “Doctor, how do you like Capt. De Caulp?”

“Oh, very much, indeed!” said he. “He is a perfect gentleman in every respect and a man of very polished manners and superior talents. He is of foreign extraction, I think.”

“Yes,” said I, “I believe he is. I have known him for five years, and I think a great deal of him. I was with him at the Battle of Shiloh, and he behaved like a true hero.”

“Ah, indeed!” said the doctor. “I knew that you were acquainted, but I did not know that you had served together during the war.”

“Do you think he will soon be well?” I inquired. “He seems to be getting along quite nicely.”

“Oh, yes, if he takes proper care of himself. He has had a pretty hard time of it, but I don’t see any reason why he should not be in a fair way for recovery now, provided nothing occurs to set him back. He will have to look out and not expose himself too much, however, for a while yet.”

At the corner of White Hall Street I left the doctor to go to the depot. He said, as I parted from him, “You must be careful and not exercise too much, lieutenant, or you will suffer for it. You are scarcely fairly on your feet as yet.” I promised to take care of myself and went to the depot, arriving there just as the downtrain was coming in. … I then returned to the hospital, and asked for my discharge. This was granted me, and I also obtained a ticket to go to Montgomery, where I had some business to attend to. … The next day I returned to Atlanta and went immediately to the hospital to visit Capt. De Caulp. To my great joy I found him out of bed and so much improved that he was confident of being well enough to walk out.

We, therefore, went down to the Thompson House together, and I engaged a room and set about making preparations for my marriage.

I was anxious that the affair should pass off as quietly as possible and particularly desired not to give any opportunity for unseemly gossip or talk, and on discussing the matter with Capt. De Caulp, we came to the conclusion that it would be better to tell the whole story to Drs. Benton and Hammond, and to ask them to witness the ceremony under a promise to say nothing to anyone about the fact of my having worn the uniform of a Confederate officer. We, however, resolved to take no one else into our confidence, although there were several good friends of both of us in the town whom we would have been glad to have had at our wedding.

I procured a sufficiency of woman’s apparel for my wedding outfit by purchasing at a variety of places, under the pleas that I wanted the garments for some persons out of town, or for presents to the girls at the hotel — in fact, making up whatever story I thought would answer my purpose. My trousseau was, perhaps, not so complete or so elegant as it might have been under some circumstances or as I could have desired but then the particular circumstances under which the wedding was to take place were peculiar, and neither the bridegroom nor the bride was disposed to be over-ceremonious, or to make much ado about trifles. So long as the captain and myself were satisfied, it did not much matter whether any one else was pleased or not, and we both concluded that a very modest wardrobe would be all that I would need, the main thing being that I should be dressed as a woman when the ceremony took place, for fear of creating too much of a sensation, and, perhaps, of making the clergyman feel unpleasant should I appear before him, hanging on the captain’s arm, in my uniform.

My arrangements having all been made, we concluded to inform the friends whom we had agreed to invite, and accordingly we walked to the hospital together, when the captain called Dr. Benton into his private room and astonished him by telling him that he was going to be married and by asking him to attend the wedding. I broke the news as gently as I could to Dr. Hammond, who scarcely knew what to make of it at first, but who, when I made him clearly understand the situation, gave me his hearty congratulations and promised to be present when the happy event came off.

The next day Capt. De Caulp and I were married in the parlor of the hotel by the Rev. Mr. Pinkington, the post chaplain, in as quiet and unpretentious a way as either of us could desire. The clergyman and our kind friends wished us all manner of happiness, and we both looked forward to a bright future, when, after the war was over, we could settle down in our home and enjoy the blessings of peace in each other’s society. …

I was very desirous of resuming my uniform and of accompanying my husband to the field. I wanted to go through the war with him and to fight by his side, just as I had done at Shiloh. He, however, was bitterly opposed to this, and, with my ample knowledge of army life, I could not but admit the full force of his objections. He contended, that, apart from everything else, I had served my country long enough as a soldier, and that I was under some obligation now to think of him as well as of myself, and no longer to peril life, health, and reputation by exposing myself, as I had been doing. He said that he would fight twice as hard as before and that would answer for both of us, although he was not sure but that what I had done ought to count in his favor — as man and wife were one — and procure him a release from further service.

I very reluctantly yielded an assent to his wishes, although, if I could have looked a little into the future, I either would have prevented his going to the front at all, or else would have insisted upon going with him. Indeed, he ought not to have gone when he did but he knew that the services of every man were needed, and so soon as he was at all able to be on duty, he felt as if he was shirking his share of the work by remaining at the rear when so much hard fighting was going on.

Loreta’s Civil War: She is a fine-looking woman

Velazquez is wracked by sickness, and she is admitted to an Atlanta hospital. When she learns her beloved is recovering in the next ward, she visits him in disguise and prepares to tell him the truth.

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Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share 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.

Part 30: Velazquez is wracked by sickness, and she is admitted to an Atlanta hospital. When she learns her beloved is recovering in the next ward, she visits him in disguise and prepares to tell him the truth.

******

While tossing upon my sick bed in the hospital, I was compelled, for very lack of other occupation, to think of [the] strange life I had been leading now for more than two years, and yet it was the kind of a life that, from my earliest childhood, I had ardently longed to lead. I had some understanding now of what the great discoverers, adventurers, and soldiers, who were the idols of my childish imagination, had been compelled to go through with before they won the undying fame that was theirs, and I comprehended, to some degree, how hard a thing it was to win fame.

For myself, I had played my part in the great drama of war with what skill I could command, and, although I had not played it altogether unsuccessfully, the chances that fame and the applause of future ages would be mine seemed as remote as ever. Warfare, despite all that was terrible and horrible about it, was, to the majority of those who participated in it, a most commonplace, practical, and far from exciting business, in which the chances for eminent distinction seldom appeared, and in which Fortune showered her favors only on a chosen few. And yet there was an almost irresistible fascination in being an active participant in the great events upon which the destinies of a continent were hanging, and the possibility that … something might occur by which the humblest among the host of combatants would be immortalized gave a zest to the hard work and an inspiration to exertion.

Had I continued in health, the probabilities are that the idea of abandoning the cause I had chosen before the close of the war would never have been permitted to take lodgment in my brain, and I would have gone on from one adventure to another, in spite of every discouragement and disappointment, hoping always that I would be able to achieve something great. Now, however, lying upon my sick-bed, I could not but confess to myself that I was disappointed and that I was following a will-o’-the-wisp in striving to gain for myself a great name by heroic deeds. Although I had no regrets for the course I had pursued … I nevertheless almost concluded that I had had enough of this, and that it was time for me to exchange my uniform for the attire of my own sex once more, and in good earnest, with the intention of never resuming it again.

These were sick fancies, and I felt ashamed of myself at times for my weakening in the resolution I had formed to see the thing through at all hazards. … But there were other influences at work to make me doubtful of the propriety of my longer continuing the hazardous experiment of passing myself off as a man. In an adjoining ward of the hospital was my lover [Capt. De Caulp], to a speedy meeting with whom I was looking forward with many fond anticipations. How would he regard my conduct? And should he, as I hoped he would, be proud of my efforts to advance the Confederate cause by doing a soldier’s duty, would he be willing that I should longer continue to wear my uniform, especially if we should conclude to have our marriage solemnized at an early day? These were questions that pressed themselves upon me, and that, even more than the dispiriting influences of a sick-room, made me half repent that I had ever assumed male attire, and made me more than half resolve to permanently abandon it so soon as I was out of the hospital. …

I was curious, however, rather than apprehensive, with regard to the effect of the disclosures I would have to make when I met Capt. De Caulp. There was nothing that I had done that I need blush for, while he had himself been the witness … of my prowess as a warrior, and I longed to hear him repeat to me, as a woman, the praise he had so freely bestowed upon me as a man when we fought side by side at Shiloh.

What a strange courtship ours had been! The only time we had met since our engagement was on the field of battle and in the midst of scenes of carnage, and here we both were now, sick in adjoining wards of the same hospital, I, longing to be with him, but unable to go to his side, and he, all unconscious that the woman he loved was so near, sighing, doubtless, for the time to come when our futures would be united, but never dreaming that the future he sighed for was so near at hand. It was like a romance, and it was in the scenes of a romance, the memories of which floated through my mind as I thought over the situation, that I alone could find any similitude to it. …

It was a weary while waiting, though, for the hour of meeting to come, and, had my physicians permitted it, I would have left my sickbed to go to Capt. De Caulp long before I was really able to be on my feet. Dr. Hammond, however, knew better what was good for me than I knew myself, and he constrained me to remain under his care until he should be able to pronounce me able to care for myself once more. …. At the earliest moment that I could obtain permission to leave my ward I went to see him, being naturally more impatient for a meeting than he was, for, although we had exchanged greetings through our physicians, it was simply as friends and officers of the Confederate army, and not as lovers, and he had no suspicion whatever that his sick neighbor of the hospital was other than the young lieutenant whose acquaintance he had formed at Pensacola, and who had fought beside him at Shiloh.

He was extremely glad to see me, however, much more so than I expected he would be, but the fact was, it had been so long since he had had a chance to chat with any of his old friends that it was a genuine pleasure to him to have any one call on him for the sake of a lively talk over old times. I found him sadly reduced … by the severe illness through which he had just passed but, although he was weak, he was evidently improving and in a fair way for a rapid recovery.

When I came in and stood by his bedside, he smiled and held out his hand and said, “I am mighty glad to see you again, lieutenant. It is like meeting a brother.”

I said that I was rejoiced to meet him again and would have called on him much sooner had the doctors permitted it. I then asked him how he was coming on, about the nature of his sickness, and matters of that kind, and gradually drifted into a conversation about things in general — the progress of the war, the people we knew, matters at home — and so led him up to the subject about which I particularly desired to speak with him. After some little preliminary talk, which would enable me to bring the question in naturally … I said, “Captain, are you married yet? You know you told me some time ago you were engaged and were expecting very shortly to ask the lady to name the day.”

“No,” said he, “the wedding has not come off yet, but I hope it will very short. I should have gone home for the purpose of getting married if I had kept my health but this smell of sickness has knocked all my plans in the head.”

“Does the lady know that you are sick?” I asked. “Have you heard from her recently?”

“I doubt whether she does,” he replied. “I have been expecting to hear from her for some time and have been greatly disappointed that I have not. The last letter I had stated that she would meet me here but for several months I have been unable to communicate with her and am unable to even guess where she is or why she has not come to me.”

He then raised up and took the letter he referred to out of a package, evidently made up of my epistles, and read it to me. He also showed me a picture of myself, which he produced from some hiding place in his pocket and handed it to me, saying, “That is the woman I love; what do you think of her?” This was almost too much for me, and all trembling with emotion I handed it back to him, saying, “She is a fine-looking woman,” and wondering he did not observe the resemblance between the portrait and the original before him. “Yes,” said he, “and she is just as good as she is good-looking. I think the world of her, and want to see her again – oh, so bad!”

“Have you known her long, captain?” I asked with a trembling voice, and scarcely daring to trust myself to speak, for these words, and the tender tone in which they were spoken, made my heart leap with joy and brought tears to my eyes. I was afraid that he would notice my agitation and in some way surmise the cause of it, and I did not want him to do this, for I was not yet ready to reveal myself, but desired further to hear what he would say about me before I told him my secret. So I turned away and pretended to be attracted by some object in another part of the room while I wiped the tears from my eyes, and attempted to recover my composure before I confronted him again.

“Yes,” he went on, “I have known her for a long time. She is a widow, and her husband was an excellent friend of mine.” Then, apparently suddenly recollecting the circumtances under which he first made my acquaintance in the character of a Confederate officer, he said, glancing quickly and eagerly at me, ‘”Why, you ought to know her — her husband was the first captain of our company; you recollect him, surely.”

“Oh,” said I, as if rather surprised at this revelation, ‘”she is his widow, is she?”

“Yes,” said Capt. De Caulp. “You have met her, have you not?”

I could scarcely help smiling at the turn this conversation was taking and still wondering whether my lover would be shrewd enough to detect the likeness between the picture he was holding in his hand, and fondly gazing at, and the original of it who was sitting by his bedside, I said, “Yes, I have had a slight acquaintance with her, but you, probably, have known her longer than I have. When did you see her last?”

“I have not seen her for three years,” he replied. …

“What would you give,” — and my voice was so choked with emotion that I could scarcely utter these words -– “What would you give if you could see your lady now?”

“Oh,” said he — and his eye sparkled, and the color flushed into his cheeks as he spoke -– “I would almost give my existence in heaven.”

I could not bear to hear any more but dreading lest he should notice my agitation and inquire the cause of it, I made a hasty excuse for concluding the interview and … left the room so abruptly that he must have seen there was something the matter with me.

It would be foolish in me, in attempting to tell this story of the culmination of my strange courtship, to make a secret of the emotions that filled my breast at the results of this interview with Capt. De Caulp. I felt that I loved him more than ever and that he was more than worthy of me. I wept the first genuine womanly tears I had shed for many a day, but they were tears of joy — of joy at the thought that I had such a lover as this and that the day of our union was certainly not far distant.

The next morning I wrote him a note in my proper person, stating that I had arrived and was coming to see him. On the receipt of this he was nearly wild with excitement, and it was as much as Dr. Benton could do to keep him in his bed. Burning with anxiety to see what the effect upon him of the letter would be, I followed hard after the bearer, and waiting until he would have a fair opportunity to master its contents, I passed by the door in such a manner that he could not fail to see me. So soon as he caught sight of me, he called out, in an exultant tone, “Lieutenant, come in. I want to talk to you,” and holding out the note, which I had written but a few moments before, towards me, he said, with the happiest smile I ever saw on a human face, “She has come, she has come, and will be here soon — congratulate me, my friend.”

Kate Stone’s Civil War: One of life’s greatest trials

With Mamma away, Stone remains in command of the Tyler home, and with that duty comes caring for sick friends.

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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)

With Mamma away, Stone remains in command of the Tyler home, and with that duty comes caring for sick friends.

Feb. 12, 1865

Tyler, Texas

Mamma is still away, and from the condition of the roads we know not when to expect her. We miss her dreadfully, but we have had much company. Mrs. Carson has been sick, and we walk over there nearly every evening. Poor Mr. Alexander died recently, and Mrs. Hull, who had been sitting up all night, sent for me early one rainy morning to come and relieve her. I remained until dark, a most dreary day, for though Mr. Alexander was the merest acquaintance, we felt for his wife and children. The duty of visiting the sick and afflicted is one of life’s greatest trials.

Met a delightful gentleman when I spent the day at Mrs. Savage’s. He is Dr. Boone, a Missourian, handsome, elegant, the Medical Director for the Northern District, and is stationed at Bonham. He is trying to get Dr. McGregor to exchange with him. I only wish they will. He would be a social acquisition. He called with Dr. Weir yesterday morning and soon challenged me to a game of chess. I won the first and he the second and so the championship is undecided. He is to come as soon as he returns to play the decisive game. …

We hear today the enemy are advancing on Monroe. If so, we do not know when Henry will find Harrison’s brigade. Reports of a great battle between Lee and Grant. Our forces victorious.

There is no sewing hurrying us now. Sister gets off early to school after our usual breakfast, beef and biscuit, syrup, and homemade coffee monotonous, but the best we can do. …

Kate Stone’s Civil War: To every young lady

Recent Confederate victories still warm Stone’s heart, and neighboring Louisiana refugees are optimistic they will be home soon. But Stone thinks otherwise even as she rides past a prison camp filled with thousands of Union prisoners.

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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)

Recent Confederate victories still warm Stone’s heart, and neighboring Louisiana refugees are optimistic they will be home soon. But Stone thinks otherwise even as she rides past a prison camp filled with thousands of Union prisoners.

May 7, 1864

Tyler, Texas

Uncle Johnny and family are living with us now. They are all in bad health, but Tyler will build them up. …

Jimmy and Eddie have just left. Both the Jimmies are in a high state of indignation and contempt at an order signed by Gen. [Edmund] Kirby Smith just received from Shreveport detailing them as overseers. So Mrs. Carson was successful and sent it on. The boys consider it a perfect outrage and say they will not submit to such a thing.

Jimmy and I went out to see Mrs. Levy and found them most sanguine as to the speedy close of the war. They think we will be traveling homeward by fall, but I think not before next spring. …

We have company nearly all the time now. It makes it seem something like the old home days, a crowded house. Mrs. Gen. Roane and Capts. Smith and Empy were out recently. She is very pleasant, though Julia has taken a prejudice against her. Julia has liked only one person she has met Capt. Empy. He is a great flatterer with a stock of ready-made compliments that he weighs out to every young lady as a grocer weighs out sugar. He is persuaded that he is irresistible. Capt. Smith has long hair and is a rollicking, jolly young fellow overflowing with fun.

Dr. McGregor says there is much sickness in town, and he is too busy for much calling. Jimmy Carson and I rode out beyond the Yankee camp yesterday. The blue-coated prisoners are swarming within the stockade, several thousand of them, and those captured in Arkansas are expected every day. I rode Gold Dust. He is so well-gaited. Joe begs me to keep him and to ride him to death if I wish, but to let no one else ride him.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: The fevers

Throughout late August 1861, Stone offered a glimpse at the seasonal dangers of rural life that were tragically normal for a 19th century family. The Stones and their neighbors probably suffered from malaria.

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)

Throughout late August 1861, Stone offered a glimpse at the seasonal dangers of rural life that were tragically normal for a 19th century family. The Stones and their neighbors probably suffered from malaria.

Aug. 24

Did not reach home until nearly ten, much to the surprise of the family who had given us out. Ashburn was to have been with me but I left him sick at Vicksburg. Such an unhealthy season. Everybody in the house, but Brother Coley, has been sick since I left, and I was in bed nearly a week. It has been raining for three weeks and is cool enough for fall. Mr. McRae fears it will make the cotton crop light.

Chainey died of paralysis a few days ago. The place must indeed seem like a graveyard to the poor Negroes so many deaths since we moved here. Clearing land and digging ditches may make it worse now.

Aug. 25

Mrs. Hardison and the baby both have fever, and Josa and the rest of the family look as if there was not an ounce of red blood between them the whitest, weakest looking set of people. … Aunt Sarah complains so much of loneliness and is so afraid to be alone that I would have remained longer with her, but I was anxious about Mamma and the boys. There is so much sickness.

Aug. 28

I have slight chills and fevers and am being dosed on bitters and drugs of varied meanness. There is danger of
congestion or swamp fever at this season.

Aug. 30

Mamma and I, after knitting awhile, went to work on the boys’ uniform shirts. I did the machine stitching, but Mamma soon broke down and went to bed with a chill. Johnny was tossing with fever. …

Sept. 17

We fear Ashburn, Jimmy, and Johnny all have whooping cough. Ashburn must have taken it in Vicksburg, though he had it when a little fellow. There are seventeen little cribs of Negroes to have it in the quarters and Mamma dreads it getting among them. Thus the house is under strict quarantine.