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 12, 2015

A Diary From Dixie by Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut.

June 12th.—Andy, made lord of all by the madman, Booth, says, “Destruction only to the wealthy classes.” Better teach the negroes to stand alone before you break up all they leaned on, O Yankees! After all, the number who possess over $20,000 are very few.

Andy has shattered some fond hopes. He denounces Northern men who came South to espouse our cause. They may not take the life-giving oath. My husband will remain quietly at home. He has done nothing that he had not a right to do, nor anything that he is ashamed of. He will not fly from his country, nor hide anywhere in it. These are his words. He has a huge volume of Macaulay, which seems to absorb him. Slily I slipped Silvio Pellico in his way. He looked at the title and moved it aside. “Oh,” said I, ” I only wanted you to refresh your memory as to a prisoner’s life and what a despotism can do to make its captives happy!”

Two weddings—in Camden, Ellen Douglas Ancrum to Mr. Lee, engineer and architect, a clever man, which is the best investment now. In Columbia, Sally Hampton and John Cheves Haskell, the bridegroom, a brave, one-armed soldier.

A wedding to be. Lou McCord’s. And Mrs. McCord is going about frantically, looking for eggs “to mix and make into wedding-cake,” and finding none. She now drives the funniest little one-mule vehicle.

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I have been ill since I last wrote in this journal. Serena’s letter came. She says they have been visited by bushwhackers, the roughs that always follow in the wake of an army. My sister Kate they forced back against the wall. She had Katie, the baby, in her arms, and Miller, the brave boy, clung to his mother, though he could do no more. They tried to pour brandy down her throat. They knocked Mary down with the butt end of a pistol, and Serena they struck with an open hand, leaving the mark on her cheek for weeks.

Mr. Christopher Hampton says in New York people have been simply intoxicated with the fumes of their own glory. Military prowess is a new wrinkle of delight to them. They are mad with pride that, ten to one, they could, after five years’ hard fighting, prevail over us, handicapped, as we were, with a majority of aliens, quasi foes, and negro slaves whom they tried to seduce, shut up with us. They pay us the kind of respectful fear the British meted out to Napoleon when they sent him off with Sir Hudson Lowe to St. Helena, the lone rock by the sea, to eat his heart out where he could not alarm them more.

Of course, the Yankees know and say they were too many for us, and yet they would all the same prefer not to try us again. Would Wellington be willing to take the chances of Waterloo once more with Grouchy, Blücher, and all that left to haphazard? Wigfall said to old Cameron[1] in 1861, “Then you will a sutler be, and profit shall accrue.” Christopher Hampton says that in some inscrutable way in the world North, everybody “ has contrived to amass fabulous wealth by this war.”

There are two classes of vociferous sufferers in this community: 1. Those who say, “If people would only pay me what they owe me!” 2. Those who say, “If people would only let me alone. I can not pay them. I could stand it if I had anything with which to pay debts.”

Now we belong to both classes. Heavens! the sums people owe us and will not, or can not, pay, would settle all our debts ten times over and leave us in easy circumstances for life. But they will not pay. How can they?

We are shut in here, turned with our faces to a dead wall. No mails. A letter is sometimes brought by a man on horseback, traveling through the wilderness made by Sherman. All railroads have been destroyed and the bridges are gone. We are cut off from the world, here to eat out our hearts. Yet from my window I look out on many a gallant youth and maiden fair. The street is crowded and it is a gay sight. Camden is thronged with refugees from the low country, and here they disport themselves. They call the walk in front of Bloomsbury “the Boulevard.”

H. Lang tells us that poor Sandhill Milly Trimlin is dead, and that as a witch she had been denied Christian burial. Three times she was buried in consecrated ground in different churchyards, and three times she was dug up by a superstitious horde, who put her out of their holy ground. Where her poor, old, ill-used bones are lying now I do not know. I hope her soul is faring better than her body. She was a good, kind creature. Why supposed to be a witch? That H. Lang could not elucidate.

Everybody in our walk of life gave Milly a helping hand. She was a perfect specimen of the Sandhill “tackey” race, sometimes called “country crackers.” Her skin was yellow and leathery, even the whites of her eyes were bilious in color. She was stumpy, strong, and lean, hard-featured, horny-fisted. Never were people so aided in every way as these Sandhillers. Why do they remain Sandhillers from generation to generation? Why should Milly never have bettered her condition?

My grandmother lent a helping hand to her grandmother. My mother did her best for her mother, and I am sure the so-called witch could never complain of me. As long as I can remember, gangs of these Sandhill women traipsed in with baskets to be filled by charity, ready to carry away anything they could get. All are made on the same pattern, more or less alike. They were treated as friends and neighbors, not as beggars. They were asked in to take seats by the fire, and there they sat for hours, stony-eyed, silent, wearing out human endurance and politeness. But their husbands and sons, whom we never saw, were citizens and voters! When patience was at its last ebb, they would open their mouths and loudly demand whatever they had come to seek.

One called Judy Bradly, a one-eyed virago, who played the fiddle at all the Sandhill dances and fandangoes, made a deep impression on my youthful mind. Her list of requests was always rather long, and once my grandmother grew restive and actually hesitated. “Woman, do you mean to let me starve?” she cried furiously. My grandmother then attempted a meek lecture as to the duty of earning one’s bread. Judy squared her arms akimbo and answered, “And pray, who made you a judge of the world? Lord, Lord, if I had ‘er knowed I had ter stand all this jaw, I wouldn’t a took your ole things,” but she did take them and came afterward again and again.

[1] Simon Cameron became Secretary of War in Lincoln’s Administration, on March 4, 1861. On January 11, 1862, he resigned and was made Minister to Russia.

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