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Yes, a solitude and a wild waste it may become, but, as to that, we can rough it in the bush at home.
De Fontaine, in his newspaper, continues the old cry. "Now Richmond is given up," he says, "it was too heavy a load to carry, and we are stronger than ever." "Stronger than ever?" Nine-tenths of our army are under ground and where is another army to come from? Will they wait until we grow one?
April 15th.-What a week it has been - madness, sadness, anxiety, turmoil, ceaseless excitement. The Wigfalls pa.s.sed through on their way to Texas. We did not see them. Louly told Hood they were bound for the Rio Grande, and intended to shake hands with Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico. Yankees were expected here every minute. Mrs. Davis came. We went down to the cars at daylight to receive her. She dined with me. Lovely Winnie, the baby, came, too. Buck and Hood were here, and that queen of women, Mary Darby. Clay behaved like a trump. He was as devoted to Mrs. Davis in her adversity as if they had never quarreled in her prosperity. People sent me things for Mrs. Davis, as they did in Columbia for Mr. Davis. It was a luncheon or breakfast only she stayed for here. Mrs. Brown prepared a dinner for her at the station.
378 I went down with her. She left here at five o'clock. My heart was like lead, but we did not give way. She was as calm and smiling as ever. It was but a brief glimpse of my dear Mrs. Davis, and under altered skies.
April 17th. - A letter from Mrs. Davis, who writes: "Do come to me, and see how we get on. I shall have a spare room by the time you arrive, indifferently furnished, but, oh, so affectionately placed at your service. You will receive such a loving welcome. One perfect bliss have I. The baby, who grows fat and is smiling always, is christened, and not old enough to develop the world's vices or to be snubbed by it. The name so long delayed is Varina Anne. My name is a heritage of woe.
"Are you delighted with your husband? I am delighted with him as well as with my own. It is well to lose an Arabian horse if one elicits such a tender and at the same time knightly letter as General Chesnut wrote to my poor old Prometheus. I do not think that for a time he felt the vultures after the reception of the General's letter.
"I hear horrid reports about Richmond. It is said that all below Ninth Street to the Rocketts has been burned by the rabble, who mobbed the town. The Yankee performances have not been chronicled. May G.o.d take our cause into His own hands."
April 19th. - Just now, when Mr. Clay dashed up-stairs, pale as a sheet, saying, "General Lee has capitulated," I saw it reflected in Mary Darby's face before I heard him speak. She staggered to the table, sat down, and wept aloud. Mr. Clay's eyes were not dry. Quite beside herself Mary shrieked, "Now we belong to negroes and Yankees!" Buck said, "I do not believe it."
How different from ours of them is their estimate of us. How contradictory is their att.i.tude toward us. To keep the despised and iniquitous South within their borders, as part of their country, they are willing to enlist millions of men at home and abroad, and to spend billions, and we know * * *
379 they do not love fighting per se, nor spending money. They are perfectly willing to have three killed for our one. We hear they have all grown rich, through "shoddy," whatever that is. Genuine Yankees can make a fortune trading jack-knives.
"Somehow it is borne in on me that we will have to pay the piper," was remarked to-day. "No; blood can not be squeezed from a turnip. You can not pour anything out of an empty cup. We have no money even for taxes or to be confiscated."
While the Preston girls are here, my dining-room is given up to them, and we camp on the landing, with our one table and six chairs. Beds are made on the dining-room floor. Otherwise there is no furniture, except buckets of water and bath-tubs in their improvised chamber. Night and day this landing and these steps are crowded with the lite of the Confederacy, going and coming, and when night comes, or rather, bedtime, more beds are made on the floor of the landing-place for the war-worn soldiers to rest upon. The whole house is a bivouac. As Pickens said of South Carolina in 1861, we are "an armed camp."
My husband is rarely at home. I sleep with the girls, and my room is given up to soldiers. General Lee's few, but undismayed, his remnant of an army, or the part from the South and West, sad and crestfallen, pa.s.s through Chester. Many discomfited heroes find their way up these stairs. They say Johnston will not be caught as Lee was. He can retreat; that is his trade. If he would not fight Sherman in the hill country of Georgia, what will he do but retreat in the plains of North Carolina with Grant, Sherman, and Thomas all to the fore?
We are to stay here. Running is useless now; so we mean to bide a Yankee raid, which they say is imminent. Why fly? They are everywhere, these Yankees, like red ants, like the locusts and frogs which were the plagues of Egypt.
380 The plucky way in which our men keep up is beyond praise. There is no howling, and our poverty is made a matter of laughing. We deride our own penury. Of the country we try not to speak at all.
April 22d. - This yellow Confederate quire of paper, my journal, blotted by entries, has been buried three days with the silver sugar-dish, teapot, milk-jug, and a few spoons and forks that follow my fortunes as I wander. With these valuables was Hood's silver cup, which was partly crushed when he was wounded at Chickamauga.
It has been a wild three days, with aides galloping around with messages, Yankees hanging over us like a sword of Damocles. We have been in queer straits. We sat up at Mrs. Bedon's dressed, without once going to bed for forty-eight hours, and we were aweary.
Colonel Cadwallader Jones came with a despatch, a sealed secret despatch. It was for General Chesnut. I opened it. Lincoln, old Abe Lincoln, has been killed, murdered, and Seward wounded! Why? By whom? It is simply maddening, all this.
I sent off messenger after messenger for General Chesnut. I have not the faintest idea where he is, but I know this foul murder will bring upon us worse miseries. Mary Darby says, "But they murdered him themselves. No Confederates are in Washington." "But if they see fit to accuse us of instigating it?" "Who murdered him? Who knows?" "See if they don't take vengeance on us, now that we are ruined and can not repel them any longer."
The death of Lincoln I call a warning to tyrants. He will not be the last President put to death in the capital, though he is the first.
Buck never submits to be bored. The bores came to tea at Mrs. Bedon's, and then sat and talked, so prosy, so wearisome was the discourse, so endless it seemed, that we envied Buck, who was mooning on the piazza. She rarely speaks now.
380a A NEWSPAPER EXTRA.
HIGHLY IMPORTANT NEWS!.
AN ARMISTICE AGREED.
Lincoln a.s.sa.s.sinated and Seward Mortally Wounded in Washington!!
GREENSBORO, April 19, 1865.
GENERAL ORDER NO. 14.
It is announced to the Army that a suspension of arms has been agreed upon pending negotiations between the two Governments.
During its continuance the two armies are to occupy their present position.
By command of General Johnston: [SIGNED,] ARCHER ANDERSON, Lieut. Col. and A. A. G.
Offficial Copy: ISAAC HAYNE.
WASHINGTON, April 12, 1865 TO MAJOR-GENERAL SHERMAN:.
President Lincoln was murdered, about ten o'clock last night, in his private box at Ford's Theatre, in this city, by an a.s.sa.s.sin, who shot him in the head with a pistol ball. At the same hour Mr. Seward's house was entered by another a.s.sa.s.sin, who stabbed the Secretary in several places. It is thought he may possibly recover, but his son Fred may possibly die of the wounds he received.
The a.s.sa.s.sin of the President leaped from the private box, brandishing his dagger and exclaiming: "Sic Semper Tyrannis--VIRGINIA IS REVENGED!" Mr. Lincoln fell senseless from his seat, and continued in that condition until 22 minutes past 10 o'clock this morning, at which time he breathed his last.
Vice President Johnson now becomes President, and will take the oath of office and a.s.sume the duties to-day.
[SIGNED,] E. M. STANTON.
TO THE CITIZENS OF CHESTER.
CHESTER, S.C., April 22, 1865 FLOUR and MEAL given out to the citizens by order of Major MITCh.e.l.l, Chief Commissary of South Carolina, to be returned when called for, is badly wanted to ration General Johnston's army. Please return the same at once.
E. M. GRAHAM, Agent Subsistence Dep't.
HEADQUARTERS RESERVE FORCES S. C.
CHESTERVILLE, APRIL 20, 1865.
The Brigadier-General Commanding has been informed that, in view of the approach of the enemy, a large quant.i.ty of supplies of various kinds were given out by the various Government officers at this post to the citizens of the place. He now calls upon, and earnestly requests all citizens, who may have such stores in their possession, to return them to the several Departments to which they belong. The stores are much needed at this time for the use of soldiers, pa.s.sing through the place, and for the sick at the Hospital.
By command of Brig. Gen. Chesnut: M. R. CLARK, Major and A. A. General.
381 April 23d. - My silver wedding-day, and I am sure the unhappiest day of my life. Mr. Portman came with Christopher Hampton. Portman told of Miss Kate Hampton, who is perhaps the most thoroughly ladylike person in the world. When he told her that Lee had surrendered she started up from her seat and said, "That is a lie." "Well, Miss Hampton, I tell the tale as it was told me. I can do no more."
No wonder John Chesnut is bitter. They say Mulberry has been destroyed by a corps commanded by General Logan. Some one asked coolly, "Will General Chesnut be shot as a soldier, or hung as a senator?" "I am not of sufficient consequence," answered he. "They will stop short of brigadiers. I resigned my seat in the United States Senate weeks before there was any secession. So I can not be hung as a senator. But after all it is only a choice between drumhead court martial, short shrift, and a lingering death at home from starvation."
These negroes are unchanged. The shining black mask they wear does not show a ripple of change; they are sphinxes. Ellen has had my diamonds to keep for a week or so. When the danger was over she handed them back to me with as little apparent interest in the matter as if they had been garden peas.
Mrs. Huger was in church in Richmond when the news of the surrender came. Worshipers were in the midst of the communion service. Mr. McFarland was called out to send away the gold from his bank. Mr. Minnegerode's English grew confused. Then the President was summoned, and distress of mind showed itself in every face. The night before one of General Lee's aides, Walter Taylor, was married, and was off to the wars immediately after the ceremony.
One year ago we left Richmond. The Confederacy has double-quicked down hill since then. One year since I stood in that beautiful Hollywood by little Joe Davis's * * *
382 grave. Now we have burned towns, deserted plantations, sacked villages. "You seem resolute to look the worst in the face," said General Chesnut, wearily. "Yes, poverty, with no future and no hope." "But no slaves, thank G.o.d!" cried Buck. "We would be the scorn of the world if the world thought of us at all. You see, we are exiles and paupers." "Pile on the agony." "How does our famous captain, the great Lee, bear the Yankees' galling chain?" I asked. "He knows how to possess his soul in patience," answered my husband. "If there were no such word as subjugation, no debts, no poverty, no negro mobs backed by Yankees; if all things were well, you would shiver and feel benumbed," he went on, pointing at me in an oratorical att.i.tude. "Your sentence is p.r.o.nounced - Camden for life."
May 1st. - In Chester still. I climb these steep steps alone. They have all gone, all pa.s.sed by. Buck went with Mr. C. Hampton to York. Mary, Mrs. Huger, and Pinckney took flight together. One day just before they began to dissolve in air, Captain Gay was seated at the table, halfway between me on the top step and John in the window, with his legs outside. Said some one to-day, "She showed me her engagement ring, and I put it back on her hand. She is engaged, but not to me." "By the heaven that is above us all, I saw you kiss her hand." "That I deny." Captain Gay glared in angry surprise, and insisted that he had seen it. "Sit down, Gay," said the cool captain in his most mournful way. "You see, my father died when I was a baby, and my grandfather took me in hand. To him I owe this moral maxim. He is ninety years old, a wise old man. Now, remember my grandfather's teaching forevermore - 'A gentleman must not kiss and tell.' "
General Preston came to say good-by. He will take his family abroad at once. Burnside, in New Orleans, owes him some money and will pay it. "There will be no more confiscation, my dear madam," said he; "they must see that we have been punished enough." "They do not think * * *
383 so, my dear general. This very day a party of Federals pa.s.sed in hot pursuit of our President."
A terrible fire-eater, one of the few men left in the world who believe we have a right divine, being white, to hold Africans, who are black, in bonds forever; he is six feet two; an athlete; a splendid specimen of the animal man; but he has never been under fire; his place in the service was a bomb-proof office, so-called. With a face red-hot with rage he denounced Jeff Davis and Hood. "Come, now," said Edward, the handsome, "men who could fight and did not, they are the men who ruined us. We wanted soldiers. If the men who are cursing Jeff Davis now had fought with Hood, and fought as Hood fought, we'd be all right now."
And then he told of my trouble one day while Hood was here. "Just such a fellow as you came up on this little platform, and before Mrs. Chesnut could warn him, began to heap insults on Jeff Davis and his satrap, Hood. Mrs. Chesnut held up her hands. 'Stop, not another ward. You shall not abuse my friends here! Not Jeff Davis behind his back, not Hood to his face, for he is in that room and hears you.' " Fancy how dumfounded this creature was.
Mrs. Huger told a story of Joe Johnston in his callow days before he was famous. After an illness Johnston's hair all fell out; not a hair was left on his head, which shone like a fiery cannon-ball. One of the gentlemen from Africa who waited at table sn.i.g.g.e.red so at dinner that he was ordered out by the grave and decorous black butler. General Huger, feeling for the agonies of young Africa, as he strove to stifle his mirth, suggested that Joe Johnston should cover his head with his handkerchief. A red silk one was produced, and turban-shaped, placed on his head. That completely finished the gravity of the butler, who fled in helplessness. His guffaw on the outside of the door became plainly audible. General Huger then suggested, as they must have the waiter back, or the dinner could not go on, that Joe should eat with his hat on, which he did.
XXI. CAMDEN, S. C.
May 2,1865 - August 2, 1865 CAMDEN, S. C., May 2, 1865. - Since we left Chester nothing but solitude, nothing but tall blackened chimneys, to show that any man has ever trod this road before. This is Sherman's track. It is hard not to curse him. I wept incessantly at first. The roses of the gardens are already hiding the ruins. My husband said Nature is a wonderful renovator. He tried to say something else and then I shut my eyes and made a vow that if we were a crushed people, crushed by weight, I would never be a whimpering, pining slave.
We heard loud explosions of gunpowder in the direction of Camden. Destroyers were at it there. Met William Walker, whom Mr. Preston left in charge of a car-load of his valuables. General Preston was hardly out of sight before poor helpless William had to stand by and see the car plundered. "My dear Missis! they have cleaned me out, nothing left," moaned William the faithful. We have nine armed couriers with us. Can they protect us?
Bade adieu to the staff at Chester. No general ever had so remarkable a staff, so accomplished, so agreeable, so well bred, and, I must say, so handsome, and can add so brave and efficient.
May 4th. - Home again at Bloomsbury. From Chester to Winnsboro we did not see one living thing, man, woman, or animal, except poor William trudging home after his sad disaster. The blooming of the gardens had a funereal effect.
385 Nature is so luxuriant here, she soon covers the ravages of savages. No frost has occurred since the seventh of March, which accounts for the wonderful advance in vegetation. This seems providential to these starving people. In this climate so much that is edible can be grown in two months.
At Winnsboro we stayed at Mr. Robertson's. There we left the wagon train. Only Mr. Brisbane, one of the general's couriers, came with us on escort duty. The Robertsons were very kind and hospitable, brimful of Yankee anecdotes. To my amazement the young people of Winnsboro had a May-day celebration amid the smoking ruins. Irrepressible is youth.
The fidelity of the negroes is the princ.i.p.al topic. There seems to be not a single case of a negro who betrayed his master, and yet they showed a natural and exultant joy at being free. After we left Winnsboro negroes were seen in the fields plowing and hoeing corn, just as in antebellum times. The fields in that respect looked quite cheerful. We did not pa.s.s in the line of Sherman's savages, and so saw some houses standing.
Mary Kirkland has had experience with the Yankees. She has been p.r.o.nounced the most beautiful woman on this side of the Atlantic, and has been spoiled accordingly in all society. When the Yankees came, Monroe, their negro manservant, told her to stand up and hold two of her children in her arms, with the other two pressed as close against her knees as they could get. Mammy Selina and Lizzie then stood grimly on each side of their young missis and her children. For four mortal hours the soldiers surged through the rooms of the house. Sometimes Mary and her children were roughly jostled against the wall, but Mammy and Lizzie were stanch supporters. The Yankee soldiers taunted the negro women for their foolishness in standing by their cruel slave-owners, and taunted Mary with being glad of the protection of her poor ill-used slaves. Monroe meanwhile had one leg bandaged and pretended to be lame, * * *
386 so that he might not be enlisted as a soldier, and kept making pathetic appeals to Mary.
"Don't answer them back, Miss Mary," said he. "Let 'em say what dey want to; don't answer 'em back. Don't give 'em any chance to say you are impudent to 'em."
One man said to her: "Why do you shrink from us and avoid us so? We did not come here to fight for negroes; we hate them. At Port Royal I saw a beautiful white woman driving in a wagon with a coal-black negro man. If she had been anything to me I would have shot her through the heart." "Oh, oh!" said Lizzie, "that's the way you talk in here. I'll remember that when you begin outside to beg me to run away with you."
Finally poor Aunt Betsy, Mary's mother, fainted from pure fright and exhaustion. Mary put down her baby and sprang to her mother, who was lying limp in a chair, and fiercely called out, "Leave this room, you wretches! Do you mean to kill my mother? She is ill; I must put her to bed." Without a word they all slunk out ashamed. "If I had only tried that hours ago," she now said. Outside they remarked that she was "an insolent rebel huzzy, who thinks herself too good to speak to a soldier of the United States," and one of them said: "Let us go in and break her mouth." But the better ones held the more outrageous back. Monroe slipped in again and said: "Missy, for G.o.d's sake, when dey come in be sociable with 'em. Dey will kill you."
"Then let me die."
The negro soldiers were far worse than the white ones.
Mrs. Bartow drove with me to Mulberry. On one side of the house we found every window had been broken, every bell torn down, every piece of furniture destroyed, and every door smashed in. But the other side was intact. Maria Whitaker and her mother, who had been left in charge, explained this odd state of things. The Yankees were busy as beavers, working like regular carpenters, destroying everything when their general came in and stopped * * *
387 them. He told them it was a sin to destroy a fine old house like that, whose owner was over ninety years old. He would not have had it done for the world. It was wanton mischief. He explained to Maria that soldiers at such times were excited, wild, and unruly. They carried off sacks full of our books, since unfortunately they found a pile of empty sacks in the garret. Our books, our letters, our papers were afterward strewn along the Charleston road. Somebody found things of ours as far away as Vance's Ferry.
This was Potter's raid.1 Sherman took only our horses. Potter's raid came after Johnston's surrender, and ruined us finally, burning our mills and gins and a hundred bales of cotton. Indeed, nothing is left to us now but the bare land, and the debts contracted for the support of hundreds of negroes during the war.
J. H. Boykin was at home at the time to look after his own interests, and he, with John de Saussure, has saved the cotton on their estates, with the mules and farming utensils and plenty of cotton as capital to begin on again. The negroes would be a good riddance. A hired man would be a good deal cheaper than a man whose father and mother, wife and twelve children have to be fed, clothed, housed, and nursed, their taxes paid, and their doctor's bills, all for his half-done, slovenly, lazy work. For years we have thought negroes a nuisance that did not pay. They pretend exuberant loyalty to us now. Only one man of Mr. Chesnut's left the plantation with the Yankees.
When the Yankees found the Western troops were not at Camden, but down below Swift Creek, like sensible folk they came up the other way, and while we waited at Chester 1. The reference appears to be to General Edward E. Potter, a native of New York City, who died in 1889. General Potter entered the Federal service early in the war. He recruited a regiment of North Carolina troops and engaged in operations in North and South Carolina and Eastern Tennessee.
388 for marching orders we were quickly ruined after the surrender. With our cotton saved, and cotton at a dollar a pound, we might be in comparatively easy circ.u.mstances. But now it is the devil to pay, and no pitch hot. Well, all this was to be.
G.o.dard Bailey, editor, whose prejudices are all against us, described the raids to me in this wise: They were regularly organized. First came squads who demanded arms and whisky. Then came the rascals who hunted for silver, ransacked the ladies' wardrobes and scared women and children into fits - at least those who could be scared. Some of these women could not be scared. Then came some smiling, suave, well-dressed officers, who "regretted it all so much." Outside the gate officers, men, and b.u.mmers divided even, share and share alike, the piles of plunder.
When we crossed the river coming home, the ferry man at Chesnut's Ferry asked for his fee. Among us all we could not muster the small silver coin he demanded. There was poverty for you. Nor did a stiver appear among us until Molly was hauled home from Columbia, where she was waging war with Sheriff Dent's family. As soon as her foot touched her native heath, she sent to hunt up the cattle. Many of our cows were found in the swamp; like Marion's men they had escaped the enemy. Molly sells b.u.t.ter for us now on shares.
Old Cuffey, head gardener at Mulberry, and Yellow Abram, his a.s.sistant, have gone on in the even tenor of their way. Men may come and men may go, but they dig on forever. And they say they mean to "as long as old master is alive." We have green peas, asparagus, lettuce, spinach, new potatoes, and strawberries in abundance - enough for ourselves and plenty to give away to refugees. It is early in May and yet two months since frost. Surely the wind was tempered to the shorn lamb in our case.
Johnny went over to see Hampton. His cavalry are ordered * * *
389 to rea.s.semble on the 20th - a little farce to let themselves down easily; they know it is all over. Johnny, smiling serenely, said, "The thing is up and forever."
G.o.dard Bailey has presence of mind. Anne Sabb left a gold card-case, which was a terrible oversight, among the cards on the drawing-room table. When the Yankee raiders saw it their eyes glistened. G.o.dard whispered to her: "Let them have that gilt thing and slip away and hide the silver." "No!" shouted a Yank, "you don't fool me that way; here's your old bra.s.s thing; don't you stir; fork over that silver." And so they deposited the gold card-case in G.o.dard's hands, and stole plated spoons and forks, which had been left out because they were plated. Mrs. Beach says two officers slept at her house. Each had a pillow-case crammed with silver and jewelry - "spoils of war," they called it.
Floride Cantey heard an old negro say to his master: "When you all had de power you was good to me, and I'll protect you now. No n.i.g.g.e.rs nor Yankees shall tech you. If you want anything call for Sambo. I mean, call for Mr. Samuel; dat my name now."
May 10th. - A letter from a Pharisee who thanks the Lord she is not as other women are; she need not pray, as the Scotch parson did, for a good conceit of herself. She writes, "I feel that I will not be ruined. Come what may, G.o.d will provide for me." But her husband had strengthened the Lord's hands, and for the glory of G.o.d, doubtless, invested some thousands of dollars in New York, where Confederate moth did not corrupt nor Yankee b.u.mmers break through and steal. She went on to tell us: "I have had the good things of this world, and I have enjoyed them in their season. But I only held them as steward for G.o.d. My bread has been cast upon the waters and will return to me."
E. M. Boykin said to-day: "We had a right to strike for our independence, and we did strike a bitter blow.
390 They must be proud to have overcome such a foe. I dare look any man in the face. There is no humiliation in our position after such a struggle as we made for freedom from the Yankees." He is sanguine. His main idea is joy that he has no negroes to support, and need hire only those he really wants.
Stephen Elliott told us that Sherman said to Joe Johnston, "Look out for yourself. This agreement only binds the military, not the civil, authorities." Is our destruction to begin anew? For a few weeks we have had peace.
Sally Reynolds told a short story of a negro pet of Mrs. Kershaw's. The little negro clung to Mrs. Kershaw and begged her to save him. The negro mother, stronger than Mrs. Kershaw, tore him away from her. Mrs. Kershaw wept bitterly. Sally said she saw the mother chasing the child before her as she ran after the Yankees, whipping him at every step. The child yelled like mad, a small rebel blackamoor.