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

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A Diary From Dixie

December 5, 2013

A Diary From Dixie by Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut.

December 5th.—Wigfall was here last night. He began by wanting to hang Jeff Davis. My husband managed him beautifully. He soon ceased to talk virulent nonsense, and calmed down to his usual strong common sense. I knew it was quite late, but I had no idea of the hour. My husband beckoned me out. “It is all your fault,” said he. “What?” “Why will you persist in looking so interested in all Wigfall is saying? Don’t let him catch your eye. Look into the fire. Did you not hear it strike two?”

This attack was so sudden, so violent, so unlooked for, I could only laugh hysterically. However, as an obedient wife, I went back, gravely took my seat and looked into the fire. I did not even dare raise my eyes to see what my husband was doing—if he, too, looked into the fire. Wigfall soon tired of so tame an audience and took his departure.

General Lawton was here. He was one of Stonewall’s generals. So I listened with all my ears when he said: ”Stonewall could not sleep. So, every two or three nights you were waked up by orders to have your brigade in marching order before daylight and report in person to the Commander. Then you were marched a few miles out and then a few miles in again. All this was to make us ready, ever on the alert. And the end of it was this: Jackson’s men would go half a day’s march before Peter Longstreet waked and breakfasted. I think there is a popular delusion about the amount of praying he did. He certainly preferred a fight on Sunday to a sermon. Failing to manage a fight, he loved best a long Presbyterian sermon, Calvinistic to the core.

“He had shown small sympathy with human infirmity. He was a one-idea-ed man. He looked upon broken-down men and stragglers as the same thing. He classed all who were weak and weary, who fainted by the wayside, as men wanting in patriotism. If a man’s face was as white as cotton and his pulse so low you scarce could feel it, he looked upon him merely as an inefficient soldier and rode off impatiently. He was the true type of all great soldiers. Like the successful warriors of the world, he did not value human life where he had an object to accomplish. He could order men to their death as a matter of course. His soldiers obeyed him to the death. Faith they had in him stronger than death. Their respect he commanded. I doubt if he had so much of their love as is talked about while he was alive. Now, that they see a few more years of Stonewall would have freed them from the Yankees, they deify him. Any man is proud to have been one of the famous Stonewall brigade. But, be sure, it was bitter hard work to keep up with him as all know who ever served under him. He gave his orders rapidly and distinctly and rode away, never allowing answer or remonstrance. It was, ‘Look there—see that place—take it!’ When you failed you were apt to be put under arrest. When you reported the place taken, he only said, ‘Good!’”

Spent seventy-five dollars to-day for a little tea and sugar, and have five hundred left. My husband’s pay never has paid for the rent of our lodgings. He came in with dreadful news just now. I have wept so often for things that never happened, I will withhold my tears now for a certainty. To-day, a poor woman threw herself on her dead husband’s coffin and kissed it. She was weeping bitterly. So did I in sympathy.

My husband, as I told him to-day, could see me and everything that he loved hanged, drawn, and quartered without moving a muscle, if a crowd were looking on; he could have the same gentle operation performed on himself and make no sign. To all of which violent insinuation he answered in unmoved tones: “So would any civilized man. Savages, however—Indians, at least—are more dignified in that particular than we are. Noisy, fidgety grief never moves me at all; it annoys me. Self-control is what we all need. You are a miracle of sensibility; self-control is what you need.” “So you are civilized!” I said. ”Some day I mean to be.”

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