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

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A Diary From Dixie.

May 21, 2015

A Diary From Dixie by Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut.

May 21st.—They say Governor Magrath has absconded, and that the Yankees have said, “If you have no visible governor, we will send you one.” If we had one and they found him, they would clap him in prison instanter.

The negroes have flocked to the Yankee squad which has recently come, but they were snubbed, the rampant freedmen. “Stay where you are,” say the Yanks. “We have nothing for you.” And they sadly “peruse” their way. Now that they have picked up that word “peruse,” they use it in season and out. When we met Mrs. Preston’s William we asked, “Where are you going?” “Perusing my way to Columbia,” he answered.

When the Yanks said they had no rations for idle negroes, John Walker answered mildly, “This is not at all what we expected.” The colored women, dressed in their gaudiest array, carried bouquets to the Yankees, making the day a jubilee. But in this house there is not the slightest change. Every negro has known for months that he or she was free, but I do not see one particle of change in their manner. They are, perhaps, more circumspect, polite, and quiet, but that is all. Otherwise all goes on in antebellum statu quo. Every day I expect to miss some familiar face, but so far have been disappointed.

Mrs. Huger we found at the hotel here, and we brought her to Bloomsbury. She told us that Jeff Davis was traveling leisurely with his wife twelve miles a day, utterly careless whether he were taken prisoner or not, and that General Hampton had been paroled.

Fighting Dick Anderson and Stephen Elliott, of Fort Sumter memory, are quite ready to pray for Andy Johnson, and to submit to the powers that be. Not so our belligerent clergy. “Pray for people when I wish they were dead?” cries Rev. Mr. Trapier. “No, never! I will pray for President Davis till I die. I will do it to my last gasp. My chief is a prisoner, but I am proud of him still. He is a spectacle to gods and men. He will bear himself as a soldier, a patriot, a statesman, a Christian gentleman. He is the martyr of our cause.” And I replied with my tears.

“Look here: taken in woman’s clothes?” asked Mr. Trapier. “Rubbish, stuff, and nonsense. If Jeff Davis has not the pluck of a true man, then there is no courage left on this earth. If he does not die game, I give it up. Something, you see, was due to Lincoln and the Scotch cap that he hid his ugly face with, in that express car, when he rushed through Baltimore in the night. It is that escapade of their man Lincoln that set them on making up the woman’s clothes story about Jeff Davis.”

Mrs. W. drove up. She, too, is off for New York, to sell four hundred bales of cotton and a square, or something, which pays tremendously in the Central Park region, and to capture and bring home her belle file, who remained North during the war. She knocked at my door. The day was barely dawning. I was in bed, and as I sprang up, discovered that my old Confederate night-gown had to be managed, it was so full of rents. I am afraid I gave undue attention to the sad condition of my gown, but could nowhere see a shawl to drape my figure.

She was very kind. In case my husband was arrested and needed funds, she offered me some “British securities” and bonds. We were very grateful, but we did not accept the loan of money, which would have been almost the same as a gift, so slim was our chance of repaying it. But it was a generous thought on her part; I own that.

Went to our plantation, the Hermitage, yesterday. Saw no change; not a soul was absent from his or her post. I said, “Good colored folks, when are you going to kick off the traces and be free? In their furious, emotional way, they swore devotion to us all to their dying day. Just the same, the minute they see an opening to better themselves they will move on. William, my husband’s foster-brother, came up. “Well, William, what do you want?” asked my husband. “Only to look at you, marster; it does me good.”

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