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

Post image for A Diary From Dixie

A Diary From Dixie

June 27, 2012

A Diary From Dixie by Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut.

June 27th.—We went in a body (half a dozen ladies, with no man on escort duty, for they are all in the army) to a concert. Mrs. Pickens came in. She was joined soon by Secretary Moses and Mr. Follen. Doctor Berrien came to our relief. Nothing could be more execrable than the singing. Financially the thing was a great success, for though the audience was altogether feminine, it was a very large one.

Telegram from Mr. Chesnut, “Safe in Richmond” ; that is, if Richmond be safe, with all the power of the United States of America battering at her gates. Strange not a word from Stonewall Jackson, after all! Doctor Gibson telegraphs his wife, “Stay where you are; terrible battle¹ looked for here.”

Decca is dead. That poor little darling! Immediately after her baby was born, she took it into her head that Alex was killed. He was wounded, but those around had not told her of it. She surprised them by asking, “Does any one know how the battle has gone since Alex was killed? ” She could not read for a day or so before she died. Her head was bewildered, but she would not let any one else touch her letters; so she died with several unopened ones in her bosom. Mrs. Singleton, Decca’s mother, fainted dead away, but she shed no tears. We went to the house and saw Alex’s mother, a daughter of Langdon Cheves. Annie was with us. She said: “This is the saddest thing for Alex.” “No,” said his mother, “death is never the saddest thing. If he were not a good man, that would be a far worse thing.” Annie, in utter amazement, whimpered, “But Alex is so good already.” “Yes, seven years ago the death of one of his sisters that he dearly loved made him a Christian. That death in our family was worth a thousand lives.”

One needs a hard heart now. Even old Mr. Shand shed tears. Mary Barnwell sat as still as a statue, as white and stony. “Grief which can relieve itself by tears is a thing to pray for,” said the Rev. Mr. Shand. Then came a telegram from Hampton, “All well; so far we are successful.” Robert Barnwell had been telegraphed for. His answer came, “Can’t leave here; Gregg is fighting across the Chickahominy.” Said Alex’s mother: “My son, Alex, may never hear this sad news,” and her lip settled rigidly. “Go on; what else does Hampton say?” asked she. “Lee has one wing of the army, Stonewall the other.”

Annie Hampton came to tell us the latest news—that we have abandoned James Island and are fortifying Morris Island. “And now,” she says, “if the enemy will be so kind as to wait, we will be ready for them in two months.”

Rev. Mr. Shand and that pious Christian woman, Alex’s mother (who looks into your very soul with those large and lustrous blue eyes of hers) agreed that the Yankees, even if they took Charleston, would not destroy it. I think they will, sinner that I am. Mr. Shand remarked to her, “Madam, you have two sons in the army.” Alex’s mother replied, “I have had six sons in the army; I now have five.”

There are people here too small to conceive of any larger business than quarreling in the newspapers. One laughs at squibs in the papers now, in such times as these, with the wolf at our doors. Men safe in their closets writing fiery articles, denouncing those who are at work, are beneath contempt. Only critics with muskets on their shoulders have the right to speak now, as Trenholm said the other night.

In a pouring rain we went to that poor child’s funeral —to Decca’s. They buried her in the little white frock she wore when she engaged herself to Alex, and which she again put on for her bridal about a year ago. She lies now in the churchyard, in sight of my window. Is she to be pitied ? She said she had had “months of perfect happiness.” How many people can say that ? So many of us live their long, dreary lives and then happiness never comes to meet them at all. It seems so near, and yet it eludes them forever.


¹ Malvern Hill, the last of the Seven Days’ Battles, was fought near Richmond on the James River, July 1, 1862. The Federals were commanded by McClellan and the Confederates by Lee.

Previous post:

Next post: