Malvina S. Waring. (Mrs. Clark Waring).
Columbia, S. C.
Columbia, S. C, February 6, 1865. This wild talk about the Federal Army and what it’s going to do is all nonsense. Coming here! Sherman! Why not say he’s going to Paramaribo? One is about as likely as the other, notwithstanding that papa shakes his head so solemnly over it, and mamma looks so grave. He is always shaking his head over something, it seems to me, and she forever looking grave. I do hope I shall be able to get around being old, somehow. Old people’s weather is all bad weather; their horoscope all background; their expectation all disappointment; their probabilities all failures. No doubt I am foolish mamma says I am but there’s a certain satisfaction in being young and foolish rather than old and wise.
February 7. While I cannot sign the bills as rapidly as Nannie Giles can, today I finished up four packages of the denomination of fifty dollars. Mr. Tellifiere says I am a treasury girl worth having, and that I did a big day’s work, and a good day’s work. Took my vocal lesson and paid Signor Torriani for my last quarter. He is gloriously handsome in the Italian way, which is a very striking way. I also sent check to the milliner for the $200 due on my new bonnet, and paid $80 for the old lilac barege bought from Mary L. _____ , Miss P____ does not yet agree to let me have the congress gaiters for $75, and unless she does she may keep them herself, to the end of time! Tis a pretty come to pass when $75 of Confederate currency is not the equivalent of an ordinary pair of Massachusetts made shoes! J. C. called this evening. He is pleasant, but stops right there, and that isn’t the place to stop. A man must know how to be disagreeable to be dangerously attractive, I think.
February 8. Saw that young Englishman again today. He isn’t half the idle dreamer he pretends to be. In truth (but let me whisper it softly), believe he’s a spy! I can’t see, otherwise, why he is so tremendously and eagerly interested in matters Confederate. Nor is he smart enough to make me believe it’s me!
February 9. Finished Les Miserables, Victor Hugo’s grand work. What munificence of power! What eloquence! What strength! How sublime even its absurdities! A waggish acquaintance of mine calls it Lee’s miserables. I must write a little note to James Wood Davidson and thank him for this treat. He is ever kind to think of me when it comes to a literary tidbit.
Friday, February 10. This being German day, I went as usual for my lesson. If I must say it, the old Frau’s dressing is all top dressing, and her conversation never more than a mild diversion. Its absorbing theme today was the same as with everyone else Sherman’s movements; is he coming here? And what will he do when he does? These are the little questions which embody the vague forebodings, the monstrous prophecies that fill the air. I marvel at the ease with which some people lose their heads. You would think Sherman was a three-tailed bashaw, to hear some of them talk.
February 11. The dawning of a doubt is a troublesome thing, for if a doubt does not out and out destroy faith, it assuredly chastens it to an uncomfortable degree. Is he coming, that terrible Sherman, with all his legions? Well, and if he does, Beauregard is coming too, and Hampton and Butler are already here, so where’s the sense of getting worried? I shall continue to possess my soul in peace.
February 12. The situation becomes more alarming that much I am fain to confess. My father’s head is not the only one shaking now; they are all shaking all the men’s heads in town. No one can tell what a day will bring forth. Steady now, nerves! Courage now, heart! My grandsires fought for liberty in the war of the Revolution; my great-grandmother faced the British, nor quailed so much as an eyelash before them! Is it for me to be afraid? I am not afraid.
Monday, February 13. We were greatly startled yesterday by the firing of cannon in the upper part of the city. It proved to be a call for Colonel Thomas’ Regiment of Reserves. I am sorry the weather is so cold. Our ill clothed, ill fed troops must suffer acutely in such bitter weather. Today I accompanied my mother to the Wayside Hospital, carrying some jelly and wafers for the sick. One of the inmates, a convalescent soldier, played with much taste and skill on the banjo. Came home to find my father much excited about me, having heard Mayor Goodwyn say that he has no hope at all of holding the city. And my father does not consider the track of a great army the safest place for young women; hence he wants me to leave; go; get out of the way! But where? Where shall I fly from Sherman’s army?
Tuesday, February 14. Such a day! It was like “a winnowing of chaos.” Very little work was done at the Treasury Department in the midst of such excitement and confusion. We are to remove at once to Richmond, and I am told Colonel Joseph Daniel Pope, Mr. Jamison, and many of the employees of the printing establishment, have already departed. I do not know if this be true; I hear too many contradictory reports for all of them to be true. One thing, however, appears to be quite true Sherman is coming! And I never believed it before. This afternoon, we could distinctly hear firing in the distance, and at this writing (8.30 p. m.) we can see the sky arched with fire in the direction of the Saluda factory. Must I go with the department to Richmond? In such case, my parents will be entirely alone, Johnny having gone, also, to the front. Does this not clearly show the dire extremity to which we are reduced, when boys of sixteen shoulder the musket? There are other reasons why I should like to remain here to receive Sherman: it is high time I was having some experiences out of the ordinary, and if anything remarkable is going to happen, I want to know something about it; it might be worth relating to my grandchildren! Anyhow, it is frightfully monotonous, just because you are a woman, to be always tucked away in the safe places. I want to stay. I want to have a taste of danger. Midnight. But I am overruled; I must go. My father says so; my mother says so. Everything is in readiness my trunks packed, my traveling clothes laid out upon the chair, and now I must try to catch a little sleep. And then on the morrow what? What will be the next stroke upon the Labensuhr? God only knows.
February 15. (Waiting at the depot). Going as usual to the department this morning, I found orders had been issued for our immediate removal to Richmond. Barely had I time to run home, dash a few more articles into my trunk, say goodbye, and join the others here. We girls are all together Elise, Ernestine, Sadie, Bet, and myself. We have been seated in the train for hours and hours. Oh! this long waiting; it is weary work! A reign of terror prevails in the city, and the scene about me will ever live in memory. Government employees are hastening to and fro, military stores are being packed, troops in motion, aids-de-camp flying hither and thither, and anxious fugitives crowding about the train, begging for transportation. All kinds of rumors are afloat, every newcomer bringing a new version. The latest is that Hardee has refused to evacuate Charleston, and will not combine forces with Hampton in order to save the capital. I am strangely laden; I feel weighted down. Six gold watches are secreted about my person, and more miscellaneous articles of jewelry than would fill a small jewelry shop pins, rings, bracelets, etc. One of my trunks is packed with valuables and another with provisions. Shelling has begun from the Lexington heights, and under such conditions this waiting at the depot has a degree of nervousness mixed with impatience. We catch, now and again, peculiar whizzing sounds shells, they say. Sherman has come; he is knocking at the gate. Oh, God! turn him back! Fight on our side, and turn Sherman back!
Charlotte, N. C. We stopped in Winnsboro awhile, but at last came on here. That was a sad, sad parting! Shall I ever look into their dear faces again my father and mother, and poor little Johnnie, wrested by the exigencies of war from his mother’s knee? People who have never been through a war don’t know anything about war. May I never pass through another. Why will men fight? Especially brothers? Why cannot they adjust their differences and redress their wrongs without the shedding of woman’s tears and the spilling of each other’s blood?
But I dare not write, nor even think much on this strain. My old friend J. B. L. is along. He is very kind. Think of his lifting our heavy trunks into the baggage car with his own hands! Otherwise they would be sitting on the railroad platform in Columbia yet. Say what you please, it is, after all, the men whom we women have to depend on in this world. J. B. L’s. friend, whom he asked permission to present to us, is a graduate of the Medical College of New York, a young Hippocrates of profoundly scientific attainments. Nor is that all he is possessed of all that ease of manner and well-bred poise for which the F. F. V.’s are noted.
Saturday, February 18. The people of Charlotte received us with unbounded kindness, and are treating us with royal hospitality. They met us in their carriages and, although utter strangers, conducted us, as honored guests, to their beautiful homes. How is that for Confederate Treasury girls? Bet has gone to General Young’s, but the others of us have fallen to the lot of Mr. Davidson, and a very enviable lot it is for us, in a home so well ordered and abounding in plenty. I do not know how long we shall be here. Mr. Duncan, who has charge of our division, says until transportation can be secured. Tonight some troops were passing through the city, and I could hear in the far, faint distance, a band playing “Dixie” and “Old Folks at Home.” It made me cry, the sound was so sweet, so mournful, so heart-breaking. How fare my old folks at home? Are there any old folks left at my home? Maybe not! Alas! we can hear nothing definite!
February 20. The adulation we receive in this city is enough to turn our heads completely. But for this dreadful suspense I believe it would. The most appalling rumors reach us, but nothing more. Dr. S saw one of Wheeler’s cavalrymen, who left Columbia on Friday morning, at which time Hampton had notified the Mayor that the Reserves could no longer hold the city. The South Carolina depot was already in ruins, and the Congaree Bridge burned, while thousands of the inhabitants were flying from the enemy. On Friday night, at Winnsboro, this same soldier reports having seen a tremendous illumination in the sky, which all who saw believed to be Columbia in flames. My God! How terrible, if true! What has been the fate of my parents, and Johnnie! Despite this horrible uncertainty, we have been to church, and are trying to keep calm and hopeful. But why was I ever persuaded to leave my home and dear ones in this time of danger!
Greensboro, N. C, February 23. We positively hated to leave Charlotte, so many friends did we make there. Howbeit, a Treasury signer, like a good soldier, must obey orders. At this place, we are not half so pleasantly situated, being all crowded together in one small room. But we are in no mood to cavil; our soldiers fare worse. We begin to realize, as we never before have done, their hardships, and the thankfulness which ought to fill the heart of each one whose head is roof-covered. Daily blessings are not mere matters of course. We are too apt to think so until times like these come our way. General John S. Preston has just been in to see us. He is a grand looking man not only that, he has the look of being somebody in particular, which he is. He could tell us nothing on the subject nearest our hearts the fate of Columbia. But he fears the worst.
February 24. “On to Richmond!” is the rallying cry of the period; but this end of the Confederate Treasury can’t go on without the means of transportation. The whole South seems to be rallying there.
Thursday, February 25. Mr. Duncan, the doctor, and J. B. L. are indefatigable in their efforts to make us comfortable and happy. We see them every day and, to be more explicit, almost every hour in the day. We call ourselves “The Happy Family.” If you ask me wherefore, I can only say, probably because we have so much reason to be unhappy, and yet are not exactly.
February 26. Still in Greensboro, and I do not see how we have managed to live through these homeless and anxious days so agreeably to ourselves. It is the gentlemen who keep us cheered up and allow us no chance to fret. There is no doubt, however, that Columbia is in ashes. People who have never been through a war know nothing about what war is. It is a crushing machine, whose main-spring is anxiety, whose turn screw is apprehension. Are my brothers all dead? Are my father and mother still living? These questions put me to the rack when I allow myself to ask them.
Ballard House, Richmond, March 1. We have taken Richmond, if the Yankees haven’t! Yes, we are here; but had some trouble to get settled. The fashionable mode of living is room-keeping, and we are strictly in the fashion. And now how nicely comes in that trunk of provisions my thoughtful papa made me bring, much against my own wishes. On opening it, we found meal, hominy, flour, a side of bacon, some coffee, tea, and a quantity of potatoes. They will help us along wonderfully, as all food products bring a tremendous price in this beleaguered city. Ernestine went to market this morning and paid $10 for a steak for our breakfast. At that rate we can only afford to take a savory smell occasionally! Ernie is simply angelic in spirit she never loses patience, never gets cross, never says anything she oughtn’t to say, even against the Yankees! The city is crowded to suffocation, the streets thronged with soldiers in uniform, officers gaily caparisoned, and beautiful women, beautifully dressed, though not in the latest Parisian toilettes. I should say there is no more brilliant capital among all the nations. Are there great and somber tragedies going on around us? Is there a war? I thought so before I reached Richmond!
March 2. Our department quarters here are not nearly so comfortable as those left behind in Columbia. They do well enough, however. I have not had a chance to mention that handsome officer we saw on the train after leaving Greensboro. He was of the blonde type, with tawny, flowing mustache, and hair bright as ”streaks from Aurora’s fingers.” Tall and broad-shouldered, he was attired in a captain’s uniform, and deeply absorbed in reading a book. What was the book? Lise and I were wild to find out. We did find out, and, I hope, without exciting the least suspicion on his part. The book was “Quits.” Knowing the story so well, and his face being so expressive, we could almost guess the contents of the pages as he turned them over. But after awhile he did not appear so deeply interested in it, and when our train had to be exchanged for another he stepped forward, raised his hat, and asked to be allowed to remove our packages. He was very grave and’ dignified. Were we wrong in accepting the attention? Sadie says we must not accept the slightest attention from unknown men while thus traveling. We have been thrust forth from the safe environment of our homes and cannot afford to take any risks. Sadie is as proper as a dowager duchess of eighty. But, ah! the strange exigencies of these times! What is to become of us? There is no longer the shadow of a doubt our homes are in ashes.
March 3. I find myself regarding Lise with increasing admiration and affection. She is surely the most graceful girl in existence, combining a lot of downright amiability with a vast amount of tact. Also, she has a deal of fun and mischief. That blonde stranger must have noticed all of this with his eyes, so darkly blue.
March 4. A letter from home! A letter from home! It reached me by hand through the department is most reassuring and at the same time most delightfully comprehensive. They are all safe thank God, my dear ones. Johnny came through without a scratch, and so did my new Stein way. It was a night of untold horrors (the 17th), but in the general conflagration our house was saved. My father and mother made friends even among their enemies and through their exertions and old Maum Nancy’s the family were fed and protected during the whole time. A number of Federal officers were quartered with the family until the morning of the 20th. One of them, whom mamma describes as “a most attractive voting lieutenant,” examined my music, tried my piano, playing with no little skill, and then inquired, “Where is she; the young lady who plays?” And when my father answered, “Gone to Richmond,” he laughingly rejoined, “Ran away from the Yankees! Now, where was the use of that? We are just as sure to catch her there as here.” Are you, Mr. Lieutenant? I fancy not; Sherman’s army can’t expect to overrun the whole earth; we are safe enough in Richmond. And yet I regret again not being there. I might have conducted the argument on both sides, for awhile, with that attractive young lieutenant, and who knows? perchance make one Yankee’s heart ache a little. What fun! What an opportunity! What a chance to get even have I lost!
March 5. Oh! the seduction, the novelty, the fascination of this life in Richmond! If patriotism is its master chord, pleasure is no less its dominant note, and while it is as indescribable as the sparkle of champagne, it is no less intoxicating. Last night the parlor was full of visitors, and the same may be said of almost every night officers, privates, congressmen, senators, old friends and new ones, from all parts of the country. They are finding out our whereabouts and paying their devoirs. And what do you think my little book? The blonde captain was among them. Strange things are the most natural; I have begun to think, for our strange acquaintance has come about in the most natural way. Dr. S_____ knows his relatives in Maryland, and we are acquainted with his relatives in Carolina, so not even Sadie could gainsay the fitness of the acquaintance nor Ernestine, who is an anxious mother to the last one of us.
March 7. He is just as charming a gentleman as I thought he would be I refer to the captain, of course. Last night I saw him gazing at Bet’s hair in the most admiring manner. It is magnificent. I should be awfully vain of it, were it mine but she is not. Bet is as level headed as a girl can be, and as sweet and modest as a violet.
March 8. Wish I had been taught to cook instead of how to play on the piano. A practical knowledge of the preparation of food products would stand me in better stead at this juncture than any amount of information regarding the scientific principles of music. I adore music, but I can’t live without eating and I’m hungry! I want some chicken salad, and some charlotte russe, and some ox-palate, and corn muffins! These are the things I want; but I’ll eat anything I can get. Honestly, our cuisine has become a burning question. Dear, sweet Ernie bears the brunt, and has to, because the rest of us are simpletons! She’ll be canonized some of these days, or deserves to be, if she isn’t.
March 9. Little book, give me your ear. Close! There! Promise me never to breathe it! Blank loves Blank! Yes, he does! And she doesn’t care for him not a pennyworth! It is a dreadful state of affairs, to be sure. Why must there be so much loving and making of love? How much nicer to just keep on being friends with everybody (except one!) and nothing more. It is a shame that I have so little time to devote to my journal. We meet so many delightful people and so many famous people. The other day, attended a review of Gary’s Brigade, by Generals Fitzhugh Lee and Longstreet, in an open field between the Nine Mile and Darby Town roads. We went in an army ambulance, attended by a number of our gentlemen friends. Fitz. Lee passed very near us. It was the sight of a lifetime; it thrilled and pulsated all through me. When the review was over, we were speedily surrounded by a throng of gallants, officers and privates the noble privates, heroes, I love them! They bear the yoke and do the fighting, while some of the officers don’t do anything but ornament the army. Mind, I don’t say all some. Do you think we women give no heed to these things? I know what kind of a heart a man carries under his brass buttons. We spoke to many of our own State troops, some of them gaunt and battle-scarred veterans, and some of them young in service but with the courage of veterans in them. Whether we get whipped in this fight or not, one thing will be forever indisputable our soldiers are true soldiers and good fighters. Sometimes I fear that we are going to get the worst of it but away with all fears!
To doubt the end were want of trust in God.
So says Henry Timrod, in his Ethnogenesis, and he is a poet, and the poet has a far-seeing eye. It open beautifully this poem, I mean
Hath not the morning dawned with added light?
And shall not evening call another star
Out of the infinite regions of the night
To mark this day in Heaven?
I hear Timrod’s health is poor. What a pity! I hope he will live to sing us many songs. I must not forget to chronicle the fact that I saw my gallant cousin, Robert D____ , out at the review. We greeted each other with unfeigned pleasure.
March 10. The drawing room was again crowded last night, and we got up an important dance on the spur of the moment. General Kershaw, General Gary, and General Ruggles were present; also our friends, the congressman, the captain, the major, and the M. P. Oh! yes. We know Mr. Connelly, an Irish M. P. and Southern sympathizer. He seems to have plenty of money, and lives here in great style for war times; owns a steam yacht, and we are to have an outing on it before long. There are so many interesting things I could and ought to write about, but just can’t, because I am so hungry! And having nothing to eat, I am going to bed to fill up on sleep.
March 11. Thank goodness! I’m not hungry tonight, and for a very good reason: we dined with the Secretary of the Treasury and his family, the Trenholms. It was a symposium to us poor Treasury girls, attractive and impressive. We discussed the varied menu, elegantly prepared and daintily served, with a Confederate appetite, sharply whetted for long-denied delicacies. Mr. Morgan, the young midshipman, was there, quite en famille. I did not hear when the wedding is to be. I suppose after the war. Everything is going to take place after the war. As we arose from the table, President and Mrs. Davis were announced. This famous man honoris causa, I had already seen before in Columbia, but this was my first glimpse of his wife. She was graciousness itself. Some people whom I have heard talk, and who look upon Mr. Davis as a mere function of government, are disposed to regard him as a conspicuous failure, but, in the name of reason, how can one man please everybody? His role is certainly one of great difficulty. Socially, he may rub some persons the wrong way, but not so with us. He was pleasant, polished, and entertaining.
March 12. A delicate piece of business is this managing of so many men in one lump! They will have ideas of their own, the most stupid among them! And they all want to be first in importance. I feel in a humor to “size up” some of them tonight, not ill-naturedly, but only for my own amusement. Major W____ is a squire of dames and admirable as a raconteur; Colonel P____ laughs and flatters, and flatters and laughs, and positively that is all he ever does or knows how to do; B___ is an amiable, domesticated creature; T____ has excellent intentions, and a great many of them, and no doubt, in due course of time, he’ll find that place where such things are said to abound; C____ just falls short of everything but can he help it, poor fellow? P____ is a man who has risen superior to himself; Z____ is a dead level of dullness; as to C____ ‘s manners, he is a debtor “both to the Greeks and the barbarians”; K____ is a Joseph Surface; General “enjoys” bad health; L____ is a negative instance; F____ is a mosaic of sentiment; and as for the others, it being so late, and I so sleepy, they will happily escape this time!
March 15. The Trenholms are exceedingly kind to us. Whenever that majordomo of theirs makes his appearance with that big basket of his, plenty prevails in this section of the Ballard. Heaven bless them! To demolish the contents of that basket is like getting into a home kitchen. Will the time ever come when we can have real coffee to drink again? Our trunk of provisions is gone, and we often feel gone without them! Ernestine says Lise and I are completely spoiled for any other life than this surging, intoxicating stream of brass buttons, epaulettes, and sword-belted manhood. It may be so; I am afraid it is. There is an air of military inspiration around us; it pervades our being; we exist in a tremor of ecstasy, or else foreboding. Our Richmond life holds a little of everything, save ennui not a grain of that in it.
March 16. It is a hard thing to say, but I am going to say it. I don’t admire all the men who wear the Confederate uniform! I would rather dig holes in the ground than talk to some of them!
March 17. I could eat a tallow candle if I had a good one. But I have accepted an invitation to dine with the Trenholms in my dreams!
March 18. There now! Somebody was as cross today as Sir Fretful himself, and as cold as an irate step-grandmother. How ridiculous! Especially when we don’t do anything to make other people like us and pay us attention.
March 19. Made two new acquaintances today. One is a soporific and the other well, I don’t understand him, and I haven’t got time to try to understand everybody.
March 20. A great joy has come to me this day, an unlooked for, an inexpressible joy! A card was brought to me, and I took it with a sigh, because so many cards are brought in and we have so little time for rest. But the name upon that particular card made my heart thump and thump so fast I thought it would thump clean out of my body. It was my dear brother’s name the scout, who has been in prison two years, first at Camp Chase and recently at Fort Delaware. Without stopping as usual to give a last touch to my hair, I rushed into his presence and into his arms. He’s the rowdiest, shabbiest, patchiest looking fellow you ever saw, but as handsome as ever, and the same old darling. We talked and talked: we crowded the talk of two long years of separation into two short hours of face to face. It is a thrilling romance, the way he escaped from prison. In a dead man’s shoes it was! That man’s name was Jesse Tredway, and he died in his bunk after his name had been entered on the list of exchange. My brother put his dead comrade in his own bunk and said nothing. He answered to his name in the roll call and quietly took his place in the ranks of the outgoing prisoners. The details of that journey homeward, the recital of his adventures and narrow escapes from detection all along the route, is something to be heard from his own lips in order to be appreciated. The recital made the blood tingle in my veins and then suddenly run cold; made my pulses throb and then suddenly cease almost. to throb at all. Think of it! The recklessness of the deed, and his subsequent anxiety and fear of detection every moment. In the soft veil of the night, in the white light of the morning, under the noonday sun, under the midnight stars, even in the stillness of sleep, never to be rid of the fear of detection. His very life hung upon the issue, for he had made up his mind to shoot down the first man who remanded him back to prison. Thank God! he was never detected, never remanded back! He will now journey on without delay, on foot, for the most part. He has no money to pay his passage but what of that? It is a pleasure to him to walk on God’s fair earth again, no longer a shut up animal in a cage; the earth is full of a new glory for him, the glory of sweet liberty. The exile has returned to his home.
March 23. Congressman Farrow asked me today if I were feeling well. Come to think of it, I do not feel well. My nerve forces seem to be all out of tune, and my digestion is impaired in fact, a general malaise appears to be the result of hardtack on my constitution.
March 25. My head aches; I have no appetite (and nothing fit to eat, either); my senses are dull. Heaven grant I may not be ill in Richmond! At this particular epoch, it is the place for everything else, but no place to be sick in.
March 29. Mr. Duncan brings us the weightiest news. The Confederacy is going to the dogs or, did he say the devil? That young lieutenant was right. We may have to fly from Richmond as we did from Columbia. It is a profound secret as yet; but he warns us to be ready to leave on quick notice. Are we to be driven to the wall? I can’t believe it! But somehow my heart is as barren of hope tonight as the great Sahara of water.
March 30. Indeed, something very serious is a stir in military circles. After arranging everything, the M. P. has had to give up the projected outing on the James? It is not safe a fight is brewing.
Doubtless I should worry more if I felt better; when the head is so confused with pain, and the nerves unstrung, all other matters are secondary.
March 31. Feel better today. Mr. Connelly gave us a collation in the hotel in lieu of the abandoned picnic. Very swell, despite the blockade. Must have cost him a pretty sum. I told Mr. Duncan I would not leave Richmond, so full of a certain charm is the life here; but of course have had to give in, and now am ready for another flight as soon as he notifies us.
Charlotte, N. C, April 3. We barely escaped with the skin of our teeth! The flight from Richmond was even more hasty and exciting than the exodus from Columbia, only I am not equal to writing about it. Congressman F accompanied us and other friends. I fear it is all up with the Confederacy, and with me also. I am ill; I have fever typhoid.
April 8. I have neglected you, my little book, but don’t you know how sick I am? And how they have all been busy nursing me, so tenderly, so patiently, so untiringly Ernestine, Elise, and the members of this kind family, the Davidsons. We are back in our old quarters with them, and I count myself blessed that such is the case. Never can I repay them for their kindness! God, you pay them for me! Heaven, if ever they come to troublous days, and dark nights, send down thy tender light upon them! I cannot pay them; I am a miserable, weak thing, with very little moral strength and very much body (all aching). I wish my spirit didn’t have to be pent up in this body. My brother told me of his prison house; we all have a prison house. Death is the escape so why should anyone dread death?
April 10. The wires being up again, I have been sending telegrams home to allay anxiety. Have been sitting up a little, and the doctor finally consents for me to be removed home. He and everyone here treats me as a dear friend, not as a stranger. When I asked him for my bill, he said, “I have none,” and when I insisted, he made out one for ten dollars. Ten dollars in Confederate money! It wouldn’t buy enough salt to season his egg for breakfast! I could not keep back the tears while handing him the money, and long ago, when I was well, I never used to cry for anything. But kindness touches where nothing else does. I do like doctors, and men in general, men of high nature, and true. Perhaps I have spoken flippantly of them sometimes, but, bless you, not a word of it was seriously intended. Whatever their foibles, men as a class are more generous than women; they don’t laugh so much in their sleeve at other people; they are not so full of paradoxical conceits and petty animosities; they are not so apt to be distanced in the first heat of goodness; and are altogether more tolerant in mind and catholic in spirit. I say again, I like men. This world would be a very stupid place without them. The other girls have gone, but Lise and Ernestine have waited for me, and we will be off as soon as may be.
Chester, April 11. I have borne the journey thus far well, and as the railroad stops here, the rest having been destroyed by Sherman’s army, we will travel the remainder of the journey in a government train of wagons. Many, many friends have we encountered here, trying, like ourselves, to get back home. Lise’s brother is to go in our party, and Mr. West.
Newberry, April 15. The wagon trip across country was glorious! I, the invalid, was made comfortable on a cotton mattress, spread on the body of the wagon, and Lise and Ernestine, and the gentlemen in attendance, did all things possible for my comfort and well-being. Even the wagon drivers were good to me, and the very mules seemed to regard “the sick lady” compassionately out of mild eyes and patient. One night, we slept in the beautiful country home of the Means'; another at the Subers'; and the other oh! night of nights we camped out! Vividly do I recall the minutest detail connected with that night in the woods the pink line that flushed the western sky, the slowly descending twilight, the soft curves of the hills, the winding courses of the roadways, the sleeping cattle, the sloping meadows, the flitting figures of the teamsters about the blazing fire, the brooding solitude, the stillness of the midnight hour. The others breathed softly, in deep repose, and I lay with face up-turned and eyes opened to the tender benediction of the stars, and then it was that, with every mysterious inspiration of the night, a picture of the scene was painted on the canvas of memory. I must put on record a very singular incident which occurred during this cross country journey: We stopped at midday near a farmhouse, to rest the teams and procure a drink of cool water. Seeing us, the farmer came out to the well and cordially invited us to enter, which we gladly did, and while conversing quietly together on the piazza, one of us it must have been Lise, for she is always the first to see everything happening to look overhead, espied the United States flag, and the American eagle, drawn in colors on the ceiling. The sight was electrical; it struck us with a shock.
“But why should it shock us?” asked one of the gentlemen. “It is merely an evidence that our host is a Unionist. Every man to his own notion, say I! But it means nothing to us.”
It did to me; it meant a great deal; I looked upon those emblems with a superstitious eye. “We are invincible!” was their language to me; “we are over your heads, and there we are going to stay!” Little did I dream how soon this imaginative interpretation would be literally verified.
We had heard before leaving Charlotte that the advance guard of the Union forces had entered Richmond a day or two after our departure, but that was all we knew. Now, another singular thing happened. While we still sat together on that piazza, under the wings of the American eagle and the folds of the star spangled banner, there came along a soldier in gray. He was dirty, and ragged, and barefooted, and he looked on the ground sadly as he moved upon his way, walking slowly, as if he had come from afar and felt footsore and weary. Mr. C ran out upon the roadside and accosted him. Was there any news?
The man answered, “News? Wall, yes; I reckon there is! Ain’t yer heared it?”
“No, indeed. We have heard nothing. What is it?”
There was a ghastly silence. This piece of news seemed to be an unutterable thing for the soldier in gray.
“Do speak! For God’s sake, what is it?”
Then the man in gray lifted his bowed head slowly, and replied:
“Lee has surrendered!”
“It is not true! It cannot be true!”
But it was true.
“Wasn’t I there?” asked the soldier, whose voice sounded as if his heart were broken. “Wasn’t I there when it happened on the 9th of April?”
What more was there to be said? Failure is a bitter thing, but I think the only way to meet it is in silence and with courage.
Newberry, April 25. Lise and Ernestine are long since home, but my dear friends here will not listen to my leaving until I have grown stronger. I do not get on physically as fast as I ought. It is very restful here, after the exciting life in Richmond. What of the city now? What of the sunshiny pavements, where I promenaded but so lately, amid scenes of such brilliancy and life? There came a sudden darkening in her sky, and I know not how weak I am until I undertake to touch upon these themes. Surely the feeling of utter helplessness is the worst feeling in the world.
May 5. Home again! But, ah! how changed a home! All but God is changing day by day.
Changed are we, and changed our home, in everything but loving hearts. ‘We are all here; nobody killed in battle; nobody dead from disease. Have we not something, after all, to be thankful for? Now Johnny must go to college and exchange the arts of war for the arts of peace.
Judge Aldrich took charge of me from Newberry. We came as far as Alston on the train, but the railroad being destroyed thence, we hired an old ambulance, which, although in a state of chronic dilapidation, luckily held together for the trip. We entered the city from the Alain street road, our way being marked with desolation and ruin on all sides. One solitary house is all that is left upon that whole street above the State House. Turning out of that street, we lost our bearings in the surrounding mass of brick and ashes. There are few landmarks left in the heart of the city to enable the wayfarer to distinguish one locality from another. It is all so strange, so sad, so hard to realize. “How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people? How has she became as a widow?” The relief to my overwrought feelings as we drove through the silent streets was in a woman’s refuge tears; my companion’s in a man’s silence. We said little to each other; we only drew long, deep, sighing breaths of pain. War has no pity, yet, oh! the pity of it!
Thus we reached home.
Old mammy was the first to see, the first to greet me.
“Lawd! Lawd! young missis, dem Yankees ain’t kill ye, sure enough!”
“No,” said I; “they must catch before they kill.”
“Bless Gawd fer dat! But I hope yer fetched yer rashuns wid yer.”
“No,” I was obliged to admit, “I only brought an appetite, and, I regret to state, a very good one.”
“Den Lawd hab mercy on yer!” she remarked, “fer de blackberries, dey ain’t got ripe yit.”
And old Nancv shook her head mournfully.
As to my dear mother, she is so happy in my safe return that she scarcely reverts to our hardships. We still have each other. We two, and old mammy, are the only ones at home at present, the gentlemen of the family having gone up to the Broad River section in a wagon, in the hope of being able to procure some provisions. It is next door to starvation with us, and no mistake. Each day we send to headquarters for a little bacon and some meal, and that is what we live on, if it may be called living. It is true, we have a little sugar, and a small quantity of real tea a dear old lady gave me in Newberry, but the sugar was buried while the Federal army was here, and in consequence is infested with those pestiferous little creatures who never fail to make the best of their opportunities. Now, some who may chance to read these lines might say that they couldn’t go ant-tea. But I go it! It is much better than no tea at all. Moreover, I manage it after a way of my own which vastly increases its palatability. I found out how to do it. I skim all I can conveniently off the top, then I shut my eyes tight and fast, then I open my mouth (which is a good-sized mouth) and it all runs down (ants too), and then I open my eyes and put the cup down and say to myself, “Good! Very good! I like tea.”
June 20. Sadie came to see me yesterday, and today it is Lise and Ernestine. We often see each other, and surely we girls are never so happy as when seeing each other. We often wish for Bet, who is far away, and we read each other’s letters, and talk about the generals, the colonels, and the majors, and the captains, and the no less dear, delightful privates we used to know in those days of excitement, those nights of enchantment, passed in fair Richmond, on the James. It is thus we live over again the stirring events of those stirring times, when together we fled from Sherman.