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

Diary of a Southern Refugee During the War by Judith White McGuire

23d.—Our young relative, Lieutenant G., a member of General Stuart’s staff, who was always near his person, has just been giving us a most gratifying account of General Stuart’s habits. He says, that although he considered him one of the most sprightly men he has ever seen, devoted to society, particularly to that of the ladies, always social and cheerful, yet he has never seen him do any thing, even under the strongest excitement, unbecoming his Christian profession or his high position as a soldier; he never saw him drink, or heard an oath escape his lips; his sentiments were always high-minded, pure, and honourable, and his actions entirely coincided with them. In short, he considered him, whether on the field or in the private circle, the model of a Christian gentleman and soldier. When speaking of his gallantry as an officer, Lieutenant G’s admiration knows no bounds. He speaks of the devotion of the soldiers to him as enthusiastic in the extreme. The evening before his fatal wound, he sent his troops on in pursuit of Sheridan, under the command of General Fitz Lee, as he was unavoidably detained for some three or four hours. General Lee overtook the enemy, and a sharp skirmish ensued, in which Sheridan’s rear suffered very much. In the mean time, General Stuart determined to overtake General Lee, and, with his staff, rode very rapidly sixteen miles, and reached him about nightfall. They were halting for a few moments, as General Stuart rode up quietly, no one suspecting he was there, until a plain-looking soldier crossed the road, stopped, peered through the darkness into his face, and shouted out, “Old Jeb has come!” In an instant the air was rent with huzzas. General Stuart waved his cap in recognition; but called out in rather a sad voice, “My friends, we won’t halloo until we get out of the woods!” intimating that there was serious work before them. At that hour the next night he was pursuing his weary and suffering way to Richmond. A friend, who knows how much I regretted not being able to serve General Stuart in any way, or even to be at his funeral, has been so kind as to write me a minute account of his sickness, death, and burial. “Perhaps (she says) it is not generally known how entirely General Stuart sacrificed his life to save Richmond. An officer of high rank, who knew the circumstances, told me that in all the war there was not one man more truly a martyr to our cause. In the many raids upon Richmond there was none in which we seemed in such imminent peril as the one in which General Stuart has just fallen. How we listened, and watched, and prayed, as the cannon sounded nearer and nearer, and even the volleys of musketry could be heard out on the roads by which the enemy were approaching! We knew that General Stuart had a band of about 2,000 cavalry against overwhelming odds on the Yankee side, and that he knew that upon this 2,000 men alone it depended to bar the enemy’s approach on that side. He met the Yankees, 5,000 strong, beat them back, and fell in the encounter! It was with difficulty that he could be rescued from those who were bearing him away, but one of his own troopers saved him, and with his staff and surgeon (Dr. John Fontaine) bore him to the city. We heard that he was dying, and, in spite of the anxiety and confusion reigning at such a time, many of us rushed to Dr. Brewer’s house to hear tidings of the beloved commander, whose gallantry, whose youthful gayety and chivalrous character, made him the prince among our cavalry officers. His life was ebbing out from internal hemorrhage; but his senses were as clear and his mind as calm as noontide. He asked repeatedly for his wife, who, though but fifteen miles away, could not be reached, so completely was the city hemmed in by the enemy. By his side stood our President, who, upon hearing of his situation, had hastened to thank him in the name of his country. ‘I have but done my duty,’ was the soldier’s reply. And near him was the minister of God, good Mr. Peterkin, of whose church (Episcopal) General S. was a member. He asked for his favourite hymn, and joined his feeble voice with the touching words: ‘I would not live alway.’ From time to time, he turned his head to ask, ‘Is she come?” But she, for whom his loving heart so yearned, came not till that heart was stilled forever. At the funeral—at the head of his coffin—sat the soldier who had rescued him, all battle-stained and soiled; and near by, the members of his staff, who all adored him. Upon the coffin lay a sword, formed of delicate white flowers, a cross of white roses, and above these the heavenly crown, symbolized by one of green bay-leaves. We followed him to the church, where, after appropriate ceremonies, attended by many persons, his body was taken to Hollywood Cemetery. No martial pomp, no soldier’s funeral, but—


“‘Slowly and sadly we laid him down,

From the field of his fame fresli and gory;

We carved not a line, we raised not a stone,

But we left him alone with his glory.’


Everybody was struck with the resemblance to the funeral so beautifully described in the lines just quoted. As we passed, in slow procession—


‘”We knew by the distant and random gun,

That the foe was sullenly firing.’


These guns were his funeral knell, sounding at intervals the solemn peal, with which, in the haste and uncertainty of the time, it was impossible for us to honour him.”

One of the morning papers has some lines on the same subject, more poetic, though not so graphic, as the account given by my friend:




“We could not pause, while yet the noontide air

Shook with the cannonade’s incessant pealing,

The funeral pageant, fitly to prepare,

A nation’s grief revealing.


“The smoke above the glimmering woodland wide,

That skirts our southward border with its beauty,

Marked where our heroes stood, and fought and died,

For love, and faith, and duty


“And still what time the doubtful strife went on,

We might not find expression for our sorrow;

We could but lay our dear, dumb warrior down,

And gird us for the morrow.


“One weary year ago, when came a lull

With victory, in the conflicts’ stormy closes,

When the glad Spring, all flushed and beautiful,

First mocked us with her roses—


“With dirge and bell, and minute-gun, we paid

Some few poor rites, an inexpressive token

Of a great people’s pain, to Jackson’s shade,

In agony unspoken.


“No wailing trumpet, and no tolling bell,

No cannon, save the battle’s boom receding,

When Stuart to the grave we bore, might tell

With hearts all crushed and bleeding.


“The crisis suited not with pomp, and she,

Whose anguish bears the seal of consecration.

Had wished his Christian obsequies should be

Thus void of ostentation.


“Only the maidens came, sweet flowers to twine

Above his form, so still, and cold, and painless,

Whose deeds upon our brightest records shine,

Whose life and sword were stainless.


“We well remembered how he loved to dash

Into the fight, festooned from summer bowers

How like a fountain’s spray, his sabre’s flash

Leaped from a mass of flowers.


“And so we carried to his place of rest,

All that of our Paladin was mortal;

The cross, and not the sabre, on his breast,

That opes the heavenly portal.


“No more of tribute might to us remain;

But there will come a time when freedom’s martyrs

A richer guerdon of renown shall gain

Than gleams in stars and garters.


“I claim no prophet’s vision, but I see,

Through coming years now near at hand, now distant,

My rescued country, glorious and free,

And strong and self-existent.


“I hear from out that sunlit land which lies

Beyond these clouds which darkly gather o’er us,

The happy sounds of industry arise.

In swelling, peaceful chorus.


“And mingling with these sounds, the glad acclaim

Of millions, undisturbed by war’s afflictions,

Crowning each martyr’s never-dying name

With grateful benedictions.


“In some fair, future garden of delights,

Where flowers shall bloom, and song-birds sweetly warble.

Art shall erect the statues of our knights,

In living bronze and marble.


“And none of all that bright, heroic throng

Shall wear to far-off time a semblance grander.

Shall still be decked with fresher wreaths of song,

Than the beloved commander.


“The Spanish legends tell us of the Cid,

That after death he rode erect and stately

Along his lines, e’en as in life he did,

In presence yet more stately.


” And thus our Stuart at this moment seems

To ride out of our dark and troubled story,

Into the region of romance and dreams,

A realm of light and glory.


“And sometimes when the silver bugles blow,

That radiant form in battle reappearing,

Shall lead his horsemen headlong on the foe,

In victory careering.”


18th.—W. B. certainly captured. I thank God for it, as the least of casualties.

Generals Lee and Grant still fighting.

On the south side, Beauregard has driven Butler to Bermuda Hundreds, where he is under shelter of his gunboats. Oh! when will this fearful state of things end?


Tuesday Morning, May 17.—For some days the cannon has been resounding in our ears, from the south side of James River. Colonel Garnett has come in to tell us that for the first two days there was only heavy skirmishing, but that on yesterday there was a terrific fight all along the lines. Yesterday evening a brigadier, his staff, and 840 men, were lodged in the Libby Prison. Nothing definite has been heard since that time. The impression is, that we have been generally successful. Very brilliant reports are afloat on the streets, but whether they are reliable is the question. My nephew, Major B., has just called to tell me that his brother W. is reported “missing.” His battery suffered dreadfully, and he has not been seen. God grant that he may be only a prisoner! We suppose that it would have been known to the fragment of his battery which is left, if he had fallen.


14th.—The cavalry fight on the Chickahominy was very severe. The Yankees escaped on Thursday night; they should not have been allowed to get off. Our sad deficiency in numbers is always in our way.

The death of another of our beloved E. H. S. boys has shocked us greatly—I mean that of Colonel Robert Randolph, of Fauquier, for a long time the chivalric captain of the famous “Black Horse Company.” After fighting desperately for hours, he was ordered to change his position; he immediately raised himself in his saddle, exclaiming, “Boys, we will give them one round more before we go!” fired, and was at that moment struck in the forehead by a Minie ball, and laid low, a few hours after the fall of his General. Thus our young men, of the first blood of the country—first in character and education, and, what is more important to us now, first in gallantry and patriotism—fall one by one. What a noble army of martyrs has already passed away! I tremble for the future; but we must not think of the future. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

General Lee’s last telegram tells of a furious fight on Thursday, near Spottsylvania Court-House. The enemy was repulsed, and driven back; and yet General Grant prepares for a fresh attack. It is said that 15,000 wounded Yankees are in Fredericksburg. We have heard cannon all day in the direction of Drury’s Bluff; yet we are calm!


May 13.—General Stuart died of his wounds last night, twenty-four hours after he was shot. He was a member of the Episcopal Church, and expressed to the Rev. Dr. Peterkin his resignation to the will of God. After much conversation with his friends and Dr. P., and joining them in a hymn which he requested should be sung, he calmly resigned his redeemed spirit to the God who gave it. Thus passed away our great cavalry general, just one year after the immortal Jackson. This seems darkly mysterious to us, but God’s will be done. The funeral took place this evening, from St. James’s Church. My duty to the living prevented my attending it, for which I am very sorry; but I was in the hospital from three o’clock until eight, soothing the sufferers in the only way I could, by fanning them, bathing their wounds, and giving them a word of comfort. Mr. —— and others of our household were at the funeral. They represent the scene as being very imposing.


Thursday, May 12.—The cannon is now roaring in our ears. It cannot be more than three miles off. The Lord reigneth; in that is our trust. There was a severe cavalry fight yesterday morning, in which our brilliant cavalry leader, General J. E. B. Stuart, was severely wounded. He was brought to the city last night. One of his aids, our relative, Lieutenant T. S. Garnett, has told us with what difficulty they got him here; in an ambulance, going out of the way, hither and thither, to avoid the enemy; of course, every jolt inflicting intense agony. He is now at the house of his brother-in-law, Dr. Brewer, surrounded by the most efficient surgeons and devoted friends. The prayers of the community are with him.

My time, when out of the office, is much absorbed by the hospital. Many wounded are brought in from both sides of the river. This morning, as I entered St. James’s Church, I saw the smoke from the cannon distinctly. I stood for a moment on the steps and listened to the continued roaring, and felt that the contest was fearfully near to us. The prayers, hymns, psalms, and address were most comforting. God be praised for his goodness, that we are still surrounded by Christian people, and have the faith and trust of Christians. The town is as calm as if it were not the great object of desire to hundreds of thousands of implacable enemies, who desire nothing so much as its destruction.

General Lee’s telegram last night gave us an account of another repulse given General Grant, with great slaughter. “We suffered little in comparison;” such was his telegram, signed “R. E. Lee.” His signature is always cheering to oar people. For some time we had not seen it, in consequence of cut telegraphic wires. Both armies are now fortifying. The Yankees have such indomitable perseverance, that they will never give up.


Wednesday, May 11.—The last three days have been most exciting. The enemy on the south side of the river have made heavy demonstrations; their force is perhaps 40,000; ours not half that number. The militia, the City Battalion, and the clerks have gone from Richmond. They have had a heavy fight at Port Walthall, and another near Chester, in which we had, upon the whole, the advantage of them. In the mean time a large body of raiders are going over the country. They have cut the Central Railroad, and burnt three trains of cars, laden with provisions for General Lee’s army, and are doing all manner of mischief to public and private property. Not a word can we hear from General Lee, except through private telegrams sent from Guiney’s Station. The wires (telegraph) above that place have been cut. Our accounts from Guiney’s are very encouraging. It is astonishing how quiet everybody is—all owing, I must believe, to an abiding faith in the goodness of God. Prayer-meetings are held in almost all the churches, and we take great comfort in them. It seems to me evident that the Lord is fighting our battles for us.

The last was a most disturbed night. We knew that the attaches of the War Department had received orders to spend the night there, and our son had promised us that if any thing exciting occurred he would come up and let us know. We were first aroused by hearing a number of soldiers pass up Broad Street. I sprang up, and saw at least a brigade passing by. As we were composing ourselves to sleep, I heard several pebbles come against the window. On looking out, I saw J. standing below. In a moment the door was opened and he was in our room, with the information, brought by a courier, that 7,000 raiders were within sixteen miles of us, making their way to the city. He also said that 3,000 infantry had marched to meet them. Every lady in the house dressed immediately, and some of us went down to the porch. There we saw ladies in every porch, and walking on the pavements, as if it were evening. We saw but one person who seemed really alarmed; every one else seemed to expect something to occur to stop the raiders. Our city had too often been saved as if by a miracle. About two o’clock a telegram came from General Stuart that he was in pursuit of the enemy. J. came up to bring us the information, and we felt that all was right. In a very short time families had retired to their chambers, and quietness reigned in this hitherto perturbed street. For ourselves, we were soon asleep. To-day General Stuart telegraphs that the enemy were overtaken at Ashland by Lomax’s Brigade, and handsomely repulsed. We have just heard that they have taken the road to Dover’s Mills, and our men are in hot pursuit.


Sunday, May 8.—By the blessing of God, I now record that, as far as heard from, our arms have been signally victorious. On Thursday and Friday the enemy were driven off, and the telegram of yesterday from General Lee spoke of our cause as going on prosperously, and with comparatively little loss to us. Grant had been driven back, and 10,000 prisoners taken, but how far he has gone is not yet known. General Lee’s telegram last night was very encouraging; he speaks of having captured two major-generals and killed three brigadiers. We have not yet heard of our casualties, except in one or two instances. We have been dreadfully shocked by the death of Colonel William Randolph, of Clarke County. He fell on the 6th of May. The country has lost no more devoted patriot, the army no more gallant officer, and society no more brilliant member. It was but last Sunday that his sister-in-law, Miss M. S., said to me with natural pride and pleasure: “William Randolph has been promoted; he is now colonel of the Second.” I expressed the pleasure which I then felt; but as she passed out of the room, and my thoughts again turned to the subject, a superstitious horror came over me, and I said to those around me, “This is a fatal honour conferred upon W. R.,” and I could not get rid of the impression. The Second Regiment has invariably lost its field officers. It is one of the most gallant regiments of the Stonewall Brigade, and! has frequently had what is called the post of honour. Colonel Allen, Colonel Botts, Lieutenant-Colonel Lackland, Lieutenant-Colonel Colston, Major Jones, and now Colonel Randolph, have fallen! and Colonel Nadenboush, of the same regiment, has been so mutilated by wounds, as to be obliged to retire from the service.

The fleet upon James River has landed about 30,000 or 40,000 troops. One of their gunboats ran upon a torpedo, which blew it to atoms. We repulsed them near Port Walthall. Yesterday they came with a very strong force upon the Petersburg Railroad. They were too strong for us, and we had to fall back; the enemy consequently took the road, and, of course, injured it very much; but they have fallen back; why, we do not know, unless they have heard of Grant’s failure. The alarm-bell is constantly ringing, making us nervous and anxious. The militia have been called out, and have left the city, but where they have gone I know not. It is strange how little apprehension seems to be felt in the city. Our trust is first in God, and, under Him, in our brave men. At this moment Yankee prisoners are passing by. I do not know where they were captured. Those taken at the battle of “The Wilderness” were sent South. I went to the Monumental Church this morning. Mr. —— read the service, and Mr. Johnston, of Alexandria, preached.


May 6. 1864.—The Federals are this morning ascending James River, with a fleet of thirty-nine vessels—four monitors among them. The battle between Lee and Grant imminent. God help us! We feel strengthened by the prayers of so many good people. All the city seems quiet and trusting. We feel that the Lord will keep the city. We were at our own prayer-meeting at St. James’s this morning at half-past six. Yesterday evening we heard most fervent prayers from the Young Men’s Christian Association. To-day Dr. Reid’s Church will be open all day for prayer. I am sorry that I shall not be able to go before the afternoon.

Grant’s force is said to be between one hundred and fifty and one hundred and eighty thousand men. The “battle is not always to the strong,” as we have often experienced during the past three years.

We spent last evening at the Ballard House, with Dr. S. and my dear S. She is hastening to her ill child; he must return to his post; private griefs cannot now be indulged.


May 5.—Our army on the Rapidan is in line of battle. Grant is moving his mighty columns. Where the battle will take place Heaven only knows. I pray that God may be with us, and that the enemy may be driven far from our borders.

We are now attending the prayer-meetings held by the Young Men’s Christian Association, which are very interesting; three of them will be held this week for our dear army, and for the battle now pending.