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

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A Diary From Dixie.

February 5, 2014

A Diary From Dixie by Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut.

February 5th.—When Lawrence handed me my husband’s money (six hundred dollars it was) I said: “Now I am pretty sure you do not mean to go to the Yankees, for with that pile of money in your hands you must have known there was your chance.” He grinned, but said nothing.

At the President’s reception Hood had a perfect ovation. General Preston navigated him through the crowd, handling him as tenderly, on his crutches, as if he were the Princess of Wales’s new-born baby that I read of to-day. It is bad for the head of an army to be so helpless. But old Blücher went to Waterloo in a carriage, wearing a bonnet on his head to shade his inflamed eyes—a heroic figure, truly; an old, red-eyed, bonneted woman, apparently, back in a landau. And yet, “Blücher to the rescue!”

Afterward at the Prestons’, for we left the President’s at an early hour. Major von Borcke was trying to teach them his way of pronouncing his own name, and reciting numerous travesties of it in this country, when Charles threw open the door, saying, “A gentleman has called for Major Bandbox.” The Prussian major acknowledged this to be the worst he had heard yet.

Off to the Ives’s theatricals. I walked with General Breckinridge. Mrs. Clay’s Mrs. Malaprop was beyond our wildest hopes. And she was in such bitter earnest when she pinched Conny Cary’s (Lydia Languish’s) shoulder and called her “an intricate little huzzy,” that Lydia showed she felt it, and next day the shoulder was black and blue. It was not that the actress had a grudge against Conny, but that she was intense.

Even the back of Mrs. Clay’s head was eloquent as she walked away. “But,” said General Breckinridge, “watch Hood; he has not seen the play before and Bob Acres amazes him.” When he caught my eye, General Hood nodded to me and said, “I believe that fellow Acres is a coward.” “That’s better than the play,” whispered Breckinridge, “but it is all good from Sir Anthony down to Fag.”

Between the acts Mrs. Clay sent us word to applaud. She wanted encouragement; the audience was too cold. General Breckinridge responded like a man. After that she was fired by thunders of applause, following his lead. Those mighty Kentuckians turned claqueurs, were a host in themselves. Constance Cary not only acted well, but looked perfectly beautiful.

During the farce Mrs. Clay came in with all her feathers, diamonds, and fallals, and took her seat by me. Said General Breckinridge, “What a splendid head of hair you have.” “And all my own,” said she. Afterward she said, they could not get false hair enough, so they put a pair of black satin boots on top of her head and piled hair over them.

We adjourned from Mrs. Ives’s to Mrs. Child’s, where we had the usual excellent Richmond supper. We did not get home until three. It was a clear moonlight night—almost as light as day. As we walked along I said to General Breckinridge, “You have spent a jolly evening.” “I do not know,” he answered. “I have asked myself more than once to-night, ‘Are you the same man who stood gazing down on the faces of the dead on that awful battle-field? The soldiers lying there stare at you with their eyes wide open. Is this the same world? Here and there?'”

Last night, the great Kentucky contingent came in a body. Hood brought Buck in his carriage. She said she “did not like General Hood,” and spoke with a wild excitement in those soft blue eyes of hers—or, are they gray or brown? She then gave her reasons in the lowest voice, but loud and distinct enough for him to hear: “Why? He spoke so harshly to Cy, his body-servant, as we got out of the carriage. I saw how he hurt Cy’s feelings, and I tried to soothe Cy’s mortification.”

“You see, Cy nearly caused me to fall by his awkwardness, and I stormed at him,” said the General, vastly amused. “I hate a man who speaks roughly to those who dare not resent it,” said she. The General did own himself charmed with her sentiments, but seemed to think his wrong-doing all a good joke. He and Cy understand each other.

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