Kate Stone’s Civil War: I was young again

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

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From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

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

Read her first entry in this series here.

Sept. 22, 1867

Brokenburn

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

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

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

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

September 1868

Rose Hill

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

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

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

Sept. 28, 1868

Rose Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINIS

Kate Stone’s Civil War: No disorder

Stone makes a casual but chilling reference to enduring racial violence, a hint of what is to come in subsequent years.

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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 makes a casual but chilling reference to enduring racial violence, a hint of what is to come in subsequent years.

Aug. 14, 1865

Tyler, Texas

Mamma is out in the backyard directing the making of a barrel of wine from the native grapes which have ripened in the greatest profusion, hanging in great purple clusters over the blackjack oaks. They are brought into town by the wagonload. Both the boys and Sister are at the writing school where they stay all day, and I, being too lazy to sew … must scribble for amusement.

Mollie Moore sent us over a number of newspapers with full accounts of the imprisonment of our beloved President Jefferson Davis. He pines in his captivity like a caged eagle. Heard directly from My Brother through Hutch Bowman, who stayed with us several days on his way to Kaufman County. We may expect him about the last of the month. … There is a great rush for the river lands. All are anxious to secure a place above overflow. …

Jimmy and Willy Carson spent a pleasant week with us lately, and we gave them much good advice on the subject of flirting, which I hope they will lay to heart. Jimmy is an exceedingly handsome, attractive boy. Jimmy had made a pair of gloves of soft white buckskin and got me to embroider the gauntlets for him in gay colored silks. They were really pretty if not fashionable, a word the meaning of which we have almost forgotten. …

These grey August days we have little to do and little company. Mollie Moore and her two brothers will be over this evening to play cards. …

Our melon patch is exhausted but melons in town are selling for ten cents a dozen. None should go unfed at that rate. Mrs. Tooke kindly furnishes us with plenty of peaches.

Quite a number of Negroes are flocking into town, but there is no disorder. Occasionally we hear of a Negro shot down and lying unburied in the woods.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Only sadness and tears

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

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From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

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

May 27, 1865

Tyler, Texas

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

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

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

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

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

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Out of time

An early-spring Texas cold front has scattered Stone’s beloved flowers, and she sinks into a depression as friends suddenly turn their backs and her brother wants to fight his school nemesis again.

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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)

An early-spring Texas cold front has scattered Stone’s beloved flowers, and she sinks into a depression as friends suddenly turn their backs and her brother wants to fight his school nemesis again.

April 1, 1865

Tyler, Texas

A wild March wind is howling around the house, scattering the glory of the white and pink blossoms that have made the town so lovely for the last week. The white and purple lilacs yesterday were in full bloom, great plumes, redolent of perfume, but today the rude norther has drifted the fragrant petals far and wide. On the mantle is our first spring bouquet, wreathes of flowering almond, tufts of brilliant phlox, a handful of the coral honeysuckle loved by the boys, gold and purple pansies, as large as those in Louisiana, and sweetest of all, the cluster of purple and white lilac. Lilacs grow so much better in this red soil than in the swamp.

Though the buds and flowers of fair spring are with us, we are feeling the truth of the poet’s song, “What is friendship but a name?” Our refugee friends, Mrs. Carson and Mrs. Savage, have grown cold toward us, and we do not know what is wrong. It worries Mamma very much. Though we may pretend not to feel the wound, it is no less painful. As to Mrs. Carson, Mamma long ago realized that she had no conception of real friendship. Her nature is too shallow to be true to anyone. The last friend is always the best with her. But Mamma had a right to look for real friendship at Mrs. Savage’s hands, but she has not secured it. Her friendship is … worthless. … She showed plainly in the affair of the house that Mamma’s interest was as nothing to her compared to Mrs. Alexander’s, a friend of a few months. Mamma is disturbed by it, for she considered Mrs. Savage one of her very best friends.

Mrs. Alexander sent to ask Mamma to let her keep the house, but that would deprive us entirely of a home as Mamma had given up the one we are in and planted a garden at the Alexander house. It was impossible and we will move in May. We will be glad to move to the Brazos this fall and put the past and its false friends behind us. …

Beauregard is all right. We hear that Gen. Sherman is dead. …

Johnny is in a dreadful humor and makes us all feel it because Mamma will not allow him to have another fight with Charley Ligruski. Boys of Johnny’s age are generally self-willed and disobedient, Mamma can do but little with him, and now he is of no assistance to her. Everything seems to be going wrong, most probably because I myself am out of time, and so no more scribbling until I am myself again.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Eager for a fight

Stone tries to write as her brother nurses a black eye, the result of a school fight.

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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 tries to write as her brother nurses a black eye, the result of a school fight.

March 24, 1865

Tyler, Texas

Mamma and Mollie Moore have just gone on a visit to the hospital. Johnny is lounging in the rocker plying me with questions with his eye so bruised and blackened he can scarcely see, the effects of his first fisticuffs. He had a regular fight yesterday with a Tyler boy and says he came off decidedly second best. He is sore and stiff today. He declares he fought the boy from a sense of duty because the boy had been insulting to the girls at school and partly, I think, for his teacher Mr. Hand’s sake.

He entered the field of combat in the real spirit of Don Quixote, for he had no personal injury to avenge. He feels better now that he has worked off some of his superfluous steam. He has been at boiling heat for a month, eager for a fight. We think he will settle to his studies now with renewed interest. He has a satisfied look, long a stranger to his face. …

Kate Stone’s Civil War: The dirtiest people

Stone hated and pitied the people of Texas. She gagged at the sight of unshaven men sitting at her dinner table. The seeming normality of violence horrified her. But the natural beauty of Texas gradually entranced her.

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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 hated and pitied the people of Texas. Barefooted women, evidently ignorant of the latest Southern fashions, still wore outdated “hoops.” The roads all the looked the same. She gagged at the sight of unshaven men sitting at her dinner table. She lost her appetite when she witnessed dusty slaves washing dishes “in the duck pond” before dinner. The Texas heat was punishing. The seeming normality of violence horrified her.

But the natural beauty of Texas gradually entranced her.

July 12, 1863

Lamar County, Texas

We made our first visit in Texas yesterday. We went to a protracted meeting being carried on nine miles from here at an old schoolhouse called — it must be in mockery — “Paradise.” After the meeting we went by invitation to spend the evening and night with some real nice people, settlers from Virginia, the McGleasons. They are a pleasant family and exceedingly hospitable. We came back this morning after a ride of nearly eighteen miles, having missed our road three times. The prairie roads are so much alike it is impossible for strangers to distinguish the right from the wrong.

The congregation was much more presentable than the Gray Rock crowd. We saw several nice-looking families, but all were in the fashions of three years ago. If they would only leave off their tremendous hoops, but hoops seem in the very zenith of their popularity. Mamma and I were the only women folks without the awkward, ungraceful cages. No doubt the people thought us hopelessly out of date. We have not worn them for a long time. Nothing looks funnier than a woman walking around with an immense hoop barefooted.

Mamma and I went several days ago to Tarrant in Hopkins County. The road ran part of the way over a lovely rolling prairie, dotted with clumps of trees and covered with the brilliant, yellow coreopsis in full bloom and gemmed with countless little mounds of bright green, like emeralds set in gold. Tarrant is the hottest looking, new little town right out in the prairie not a tree.

We tried to eat dinner at the roughest house and with the dirtiest people we have met yet. The table was set on a low, sunny gallery and half a dozen dirty, unshaven men took their seats in their shirt sleeves at the dirtiest tablecloth and coarsest ware. We saw the Negro girl wash the dishes at the duck pond right out in the yard. That was too much for me, but Mamma and Mr. Smith managed to swallow down something. …

The prairie we are living on is called a thicket prairie. There are clumps of dwarf dogwood, spice trees, and plums, tangled together with wild grape and other vines and alive with snakes. The plums are just in season, a sour, red variety just like the swamp wild plums, and are nice for jelly. The prairie is a mass of flowers, one variety covering it at a time. Before you realize it, that color has faded away and another has taken its place, and this succession of flowers and colors goes on until frost comes and spreads a brown sheet over all. There are many familiar garden flowers: blue salvia, coreopsis, verbenas, larkspur, standing cypress, and now as far as the eye can reach the prairie is a mass of waving purple plumes, “French pinks,” the natives call them. …

We hear no news now but accounts of murders done and suffered by the natives. Nothing seems more common or less condemned than assassination. There have been four or five men shot or hanged within a few miles of us within a week. No one that we have seen seems surprised or shocked, but take it as a matter of course that an obnoxious person should be put to death by some offended neighbor. A few evenings ago a captain in the army had just reached home on a furlough three hours before when he was shot at through his window. He was killed and his wife dangerously wounded. The authorities are trying to find the men who did it. It is supposed to be one of his company who had vowed vengeance against him. The other miscreants go unwhipped of justice.