Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

May 15th, 1866.—We did not stay as long as we expected and Sister Mart came home with us. Night before last we were sitting in the parlor and Captain Houstoun was sitting outside, on the porch talking to the doctor, who attends the plantation. The Captain has a low voice but the doctor has a loud, rasping voice, which carries far. We could not avoid hearing him if we had wished to do so.

“Yes, Captain,” he said, “this case is the worst case of confluent small-pox I ever saw in my life. You can hardly tell he is a human being; he is just a mass of corruption.”

When Captain Houstoun returned to the room I asked where this case of small-pox was? He made light of it and called the doctor “a calamity howler,” but before I slept I had looked up Fannie, Sister Mart’s black mammy, and found out from her that the sick negro was in a cabin very near the house in which we were staying.

That was enough. No rest for the Captain until he made arrangements for us to leave the next morning. Bright and early we went to Gainesville, where we waited for the train to take us home.

Last spring a battle was fought in the streets of Gainesville between General Dickinson’s men and the Yankees. The doors and windows of the dwellings are still full of holes from the musket balls and splintered wood-work showed where the artillery had showered shot and shell. The citizens showed us where the branches had been cut from the trees by these same balls. The hotel where we waited had been the centre of the attack and was sadly in need of repairs, both to wood-work and glass.

Leaving Gainesville behind us, we gladly welcomed the “iron horse” which would take us back to Tallahassee. There was a stop at every little station and at one of these a stout young man in farmer’s clothes almost lifted into the car, a feeble old woman. She was dressed in black calico, with a bonnet of the same, and she was weeping bitterly.

As the man turned away, after kissing her goodbye, he said, “He’ll meet you at the depot, Mother, I writ him you was comin’.”

Again we were on our way, the poor old woman continued to sob. When lunch time came, I fixed as tempting a lunch as I could and, pouring a glass of port wine, I took it to the end of the car, where she was sitting and asked if she would not have some dinner?

Her poor old face was red and swollen and her voice trembled as she said, “Thank you, but I don’t feel like I ever want enything to eat no more.”

Are you sick ? I asked.

“No, I ain’t sick in the body, it’s my heart is sick,” she replied.

“Try to eat just a little bite,” I begged, “and drink this wine, it is not strong and it will do you good.”

“Jis to please you chile,” she said, but appetite was lacking and her efforts to eat were soon over. “Suppose you tell me what is troubling you, maybe I can help,” said I.

“No, no,” she sobbed. “You nur nobody can help, they is hanged my baby, my dear baby, what never done nothing to nobody.”

I was shocked beyond measure and my first thought was that I had found a lunatic, but her next words told the whole dreadful story.

“Chile, ain’t you read the papers ?” she cried. “Don’t You know how them devils hung poor Mrs. Surratt and my boy, my baby boy? The papers call him Lewis Payne, but that warn’t his name, he tuken that name so he couldn’t be caught up with. When Conscription fust come and my oldest son went in the army and wore the gray clothes, I mourned and cried but pretty soon he deserted and after he hid around a while, he went to the Union men and he tole ’em he couldn’t noways fight but he would work for them if he could get a safe place. Them men sent him up North somewhere and he done pretty well.

“All this time my baby boy was growing bigger and bigger and I knowed soon the conscriptors would be a takin’ him, so I writ a letter to the Yankee general an’ tole him he could have my baby son if he would let him work in a shop. Soon some of the blue-coats come and got him an’ they said I must remember his name was Lewis Payne and his home would be Washington City and he hadn’t ever been in Florida. I promised all this and I was so satisfied because I had kept him out of the Confederate Army. I thought it was such a smart thing to do, and now, they have killed my chile—they hung him with a rope. They said he had plotted to murder President Lincoln. My baby chile, who never had the heart to hurt nothing.”

I found myself crying with this poor mother, she was old and ignorant, she had tried to cheat her country and this was her reward.

The train slowed up, another man closely resembling the first, boarded the train. He took the weeping woman in his arms, kissing her wrinkled face and murmuring words of comfort, but is there any comfort for such self-reproach as hers ? I will probably never see her again but I shall not forget.

I did not write of these happenings in my diary because it was heart-rending and such a blot on the history of any country. Some day when reason resumes her sway, even the perpetrators of these cruel and useless murders will blush with shame for their own ignominy. The reckoning will not come here on this earth, but what will be the verdict when they stand before the bar of God? I am sorry I saw this broken woman but I wish I could remember the real name of her murdered son. She told me but I cannot recall it. All the way home I thought of her and I am debating whether to tell Father and Mother of her or not. It has made me feel dreadfully. I wept, for Anna Surratt was refused even the scant comfort of bidding her mother goodbye.

May 2nd, 1866.—All is ready and we leave as soon as breakfast is over. Goodbye little Diary. “Sleep tight and wake bright,” for I will need you when I return.

May 1st, 1866.—Now that Sister Mart is feeling better, she is beginning to talk of going back to Marion County. Captain Houstoun says he has been keeping “bachelor’s hall” quite long enough. She has invited Cousin Martha, Nina Houstoun and me to go back with her and will also invite other guests and have a merry “House Party.” Captain promises us “all the beaux in Marion and some besides.”

We are going and doubtless will enjoy it, but I hate to leave home when our domestic affairs are in such shape. We never know when, as uncle Arvah says, “servants will turn up missing.” I am gradually learning how to do the needful things and am really a help in the house but Father and Mother think it best for me to go. Sister Mart has had a long and serious illness and has but little strength.

I am going to leave you at home, my Diary. I will have to share a room with the other girls and it is best for you to be out of the way.

April 24th, 1866.—William Henry Harrison bade us goodbye this morning. Long since he has discarded the Yankee uniform he wore when he first came, and looks well in his suit of white and the cap, which he insisted on wearing, though we told him it belonged to a chef.

“Never mind” he said, “when I gets back to ole Virginny to my ole mistis, the fust thing she is gwine to ask me is, ‘William, are your dining room suits clean?’ ”

He said the cap was considered a part of this equipment. We are sorry to give him up, his “ole mistis” certainly knew how he ought to be trained. Many of the negro soldiers, who were disbanded here at Centreville, have hired out on the plantations in the vicinity and some have invested their pay in small farms. Land sells for almost nothing now.

Brother Amos says we are all “land poor,” and we truly have but little else. I had a crowd of girls to stay a few days and we had a delightful time. In the evenings the boys of our acquaintance came and we danced or played cards.

I do not let anyone but Father see my diary and sometimes he criticises. He only reads selected portions but he asked, “Why is it you say so little of your girl friends, when you are so fond of them and take such pleasure in their company?”

I told him that from my earliest recollection of such matters, Mother has impressed upon me the importance of speaking well of other girls. She says nothing sounds worse than to hear one girl speak ill of her companions, and that a woman should always take sides with her sister woman. This is why I do not write or speak of any faults I see and with this thought continually following me I have fallen into the habit of saying nothing, in that way I cast no reflections.

April 23rd, 1866.—Father is looking better than he has for a year past. After the negroes left us in January, he concluded not to plant a crop of any kind but simply use his broad acres for pasture. He has a very large herd of cattle and a vast number of hogs, and these continue to increase. Though the number is often cut down by the freedmen, who lose no opportunity to help themselves, there are enough left to make quite a show. When the year 1865 ended Sergeant Cornell and Private Hibell were recalled by General Foster and I rather dreaded for Father, in his state of health, to have to struggle with plantation life. I see now I need not have feared for him.

Once having made up his mind as to the best course to pursue he is perfectly content; he has always been a student and he finds great pleasure in study. He also likes us to listen, in his leisure hours, while he tells us of his researches. This is very improving and, what I like even better, are the arguments carried on in his library. When men of bright minds get together it is a treat to listen. We go to ride every morning in Father’s big, old-fashioned buggy. He taught me to drive long ago and I enjoy it.

Colonel Wyatt Aiken was here a few days ago and he drove over all three plantations with Father. He is preparing to bring out a new farming magazine, “The Rural Carolinian,” and is gathering all available material. I wish he had been here when Dr. Caldwell spent the night with us. I learned from hearing him talking to Father what causes the difference between the white and the black races. Father, being a physician, knew it but he had not thought best to tell me. I am no longer a child, however, and while I have not exactly “laid aside childish things,” I take a deep interest in scientific investigation. I came near going to sleep over some statistics Colonel Wyatt gave us relating to soils and fertilizers.

April 22nd, 1866.— I have had a trying time today. Soon after breakfast this morning my friend, the captain was announced. He came alone and he was in no hurry to go. Again he offered for my acceptance the splendid, sparkling French Marquise ring. He has made all his arrangements to go to Brazil and there make his home and he wants me to go with him, but that, I cannot do. Even if there was no other reason I would not be willing to leave our poor, conquered country to her fate. This is the time for every true-hearted, loyal son and daughter of the South to bend every energy to restore and upbuild the ruin the war has wrought. We can do this and with God’s help we will. But there is another reason still and I had to tell the captain this before he could be convinced that his case was a hopeless one. He described in glowing colors the ease and luxury of the life in Brazil; the wealth to be acquired in that favored land; he painted sad pictures of the trials which awaited those who elected to cast in their fortunes with a country devastated and ruined as this is; he said Southern women were totally unfit for hardship. Perhaps so, but like my Scotch ancestress, “I am minded to try it” and, though I forbore to tell him so.

“I had rather wed Jamie, wi’ bonnet in han’, than to wed Saundie wi’ housen and lan’.”

April 3rd, 1866.—As soon as they could pull themselves together after the war, the women of the South organized The Southern Woman’s Memorial Association. We all belong to it and a call has been made on the members to get to work and prepare for a fair, to be held in Tallahassee. This Fair is to raise money to erect a monument to our heroes. The plan is for each section of the State to have in readiness the best of the productions of that section, and in December we will have the Fair and the call is for as many as possible to be present.

It was made so far ahead that the housekeepers and those who embroider might have time enough to prepare their wares. Only in this way can we erect a monument. Our people are ruined by the war; few have enough left to provide for daily needs. Some wealthy ones still have a little left but I fear they, too, will come to want, as they do not realize the conditions which confront us. It is so natural to spend when you can get the money, with no thought for the future. Anyway, we must have that monument.

March 14th, 1866.—Riding horse-back with My Soldier this afternoon I told him the incident at Goodwood and how gallantly Mr. Coolidge came to the rescue. I told him I had heard Mr. Coolidge was related to him and if that was so I wanted to know why he did not make friends with him? He looked very serious and I was beginning to fear I had hurt him in some unknown way.

At last he spoke, “I have never mentioned my cousin. Sidney Coolidge to you; he came to Florida to visit our family prior to the war. I, a school boy, just at the age to give the warmest admiration to a man of charm and ability such as he was. I loved my cousin Sidney and looked forward to the visit, which he had promised us at some future time.

“The war came on and during the whole four years of war, I was in the thickest of the fighting. After Gettysburg I was promoted and assigned to the Army of the West. One day I was sent to carry a dispatch for my general. Crossing the field of Chickamauga, I was hit by a. bullet; (the only time in all the years) it ploughed its way through hat and hair scorching as it went. I was stunned but soon recovered, delivered the dispatch and turned to go. An officer who knew me, laid his hand on my arm and said:

” ‘Your cousin, Colonel Coolidge, lies dead in that tent, don’t you want to go and look at him?’

“I was still faint from the shock of the bullet and I turned quickly away that he might not see my horror and distress. I did not see him, I could not bear it, but always, I have thanked a kind Providence that on this day I had not fired a single shot but had been on courier duty all day.

“Now, this young lieutenant you like so much, is probably a relative, indeed I am sure he is, but this is the way I feel about it; if the Confederates had been the victorious army and I had been occupying the conquered country, if, in fact, our positions could be reversed, I should look him up, claim the tie of blood and proffer the hand of friendship. As things stand, he is the conqueror, I am the conquered and if any advances are made they must come from him.”

“I am sorry,” I said when he closed. “Even if he does wear the blue, he is a kinsman worth claiming and I am sure you two would be congenial.” With that the subject was dropped, never to be resumed. He is a man of deep feeling, quiet and reticent, sincere and truthful but too proud to expose himself to a possible slight. The Southern Confederacy had no braver soldier than he. My brave Soldier in Gray!

March 13th, 1866.—We had some errands in town this morning, so we stopped on the way home. Miss Flint told me Mr. Coolidge is related to the Eppes family here in Tallahassee. I shall find out all about that when I see My Soldier again.

I got home a little before sun-set and, in a few minutes, Charley and Lodie Austin and Cousin John Nash came to spend the evening. Mother just loves to have the Confederate Soldiers to a meal, she gets the very best of everything to put before them and they appreciate it; also they appreciate her and her music. I would like to be as charming as she is, and when I said this to Father he said, “You will never be, and this is why, you speak out too plainly. The world has a grudge against plain-speakers.”

I got “a slam” from Sister Mag tonight, too. She says I am “a coquette” but that is not true. The boys like me, but I like them, too, and they like me because they feel safe in my company. I talk about the things I think will interest them, I am a good listener—I do not encourage love-making. I do not allow caresses nor do I accept presents from young men. Even if I am young I have learned one piece of wisdom, “It is the unattainable that men sigh for.”

No, most assuredly, I am not a coquette and the only time I ever approached it was Aunt Sue’s fault and not mine; it was three years ago, I was nothing but a child, a brave Confederate captain “came a-wooing,” he was highly educated, wealthy and blue-blooded. He bore a character above reproach and I found him pleasant company. One night he persuaded me to let him put upon my finger a ring, which had been the betrothal ring for four generations. I wore that ring till morning; then I wrote a note and sent Jordan to take it back to him. I was sorry but I simply could not stand the feeling of the ring and the thought of what it meant. That was not flirting; it was only putting things right.

I am wearing another ring now and I shall never send this one back. This is a plain gold ring while the other blazed with diamonds but the owner of the plain little ring is My Soldier in Gray, and no words can tell what he means to me.

March 12th, 1866.—Last night Aunt Sue asked me to dress early and take charge of her little boys until the company arrived. She likes them to appear in the parlor and it is an easy matter to amuse them and keep them “spick and span.” It was cold and windy last night and I proposed to them to sit beside the fire and listen to some fairy tales. This they were ready to do and we were sitting there, deep in the thrilling story of “Beauty and the Beast,” when Jack opened the door and announced the first arrivals.

In came Mr. Bumford, Mr. Wessels and Mr. Coolidge, I do not know if they came together but there they were. I looked up and spoke and the children clamored for the rest of the story.

It was soon finished and then Mr. Wessels stood before me and said, “I have something here Miss Bradford, which may be of interest to you.”

As he spoke he laid across my lap a Harper’s Weekly, opened to its fullest extent. I am a trifle near-sighted and I did not at first take it in, but presently I saw what it was. A caricature of our beloved President Jefferson Davis, dressed in woman’s clothes, a large hoop-skirt had tripped him up and a huge, booted leg was showing through the hoops. The face was unmistakable and I gazed as if fascinated.

It was hard to realize that such an insult should be offered to me. I cannot speak when I am angry. I can only cry and there I sat, the tears rolling down my face. I do not believe either of the others had an idea of what he was doing, for Mr. Coolidge came and looked over my shoulder. Seizing the paper, he crushed it in his hands and throwing it in the fire, he grasped the poker and pushed it down until only ashes remained; then turning to the perpetrator of this sorry joke, he exclaimed, “Wessels, you are no gentleman.”

Little Diary, you should have seen him. He was splendid. I looked to see Mr. Wessels resent it, but he only laughed and just then other guests came and the episode was ended; but. I shall always feel grateful to my champion and never will he rank with “the Yankees” in my mind.

It was a gay scene; the bright dresses of the ladies, the brilliant uniforms of the officers, the plentiful sprinkling of civilians, the long mirrors reflecting it all, but I did not enjoy one minute of the evening. I did not enjoy it although My Soldier in Gray was there and usually that insures a happy evening for me. I could not sleep for hours; the insult cut deep.