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

Village Life in America, 1852 – 1872, by Caroline Cowles Richards

December 8.—Yesterday was Thanksgiving day. I do not remember that it was ever observed in December before. President Johnson appointed it as a day of national thanksgiving for our many blessings as a people, and Governor Fenton and several governors of other states have issued proclamations in accordance with the President’s recommendation. The weather was very unpleasant, but we attended the union thanksgiving service held in our church. The choir sang America for the opening piece. Dr. Daggett read Miriam’s song of praise: “The Lord hath triumphed gloriously, the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.” Then he offered one of his most eloquent and fervent prayers, in which the returned soldiers, many of whom are in broken health or maimed for life, in consequence of their devotion and loyalty to their country, were tenderly remembered. His text was from the 126th Psalm, “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.” It was one of his best sermons. He mentioned three things in particular which the Lord has done for us, whereof we are glad: First, that the war has closed; second, that the Union is preserved; third, for the abolition of slavery. After the sermon, a collection was taken for the poor, and Dr. A. D. Eddy, who was present, offered prayer. The choir sang an anthem which they had especially prepared for the occasion, and then all joined in the doxology. Uncle Thomas Beals’ family of four united with our three at Thanksgiving dinner. Uncle sent to New York for the oysters, and a famous big turkey, with all the usual accompaniments, made us a fine repast. Anna and Ritie Tyler are reading together Irving’s Life of Washington, two afternoons each week. I wonder how long they will keep it up.

This the last post that will be made from this diary as there are no further entries in Miss Richard’s diary related to the war.

July 16.—Rev. Dr. Buddington, of Brooklyn, preached to-day. His wife was Miss Elizabeth Willson, Clara Coleman’s sister. My Sunday School book is “Mill on the Floss,” but Grandmother says it is not Sabbath reading, so I am stranded for the present.

Saturday, July 8.—What excitement there must have been in Washington yesterday over the execution of the conspirators. It seems terrible that Mrs. Surratt should have deserved hanging with the others. I saw a picture of them all upon a scaffold and her face was screened by an umbrella. I read in one paper that the doctor who dressed Booth’s broken leg was sentenced to the Dry Tortugas. Jefferson Davis, I suppose, is glad to have nothing worse served upon him, thus far, than confinement in Fortress Monroe. It is wonderful that 800,000 men are returning so quietly from the army to civil life that it is scarcely known, save by the welcome which they receive in their own homes.

June 8.—There have been unusual attractions down town for the past two days. About 5 p.m. a man belonging to the Ravel troupe walked a rope, stretched across Main street from the third story of the Webster House to the chimney of the building opposite. He is said to be Blondin’s only rival and certainly performed some extraordinary feats. He walked across and then returned backwards. Then took a wheel-barrow across and returned with it backwards. He went across blindfolded with a bag over his head. Then he attached a short trapeze to the rope and performed all sorts of gymnastics. There were at least 1,000 people in the street and in the windows gazing at him. Grandmother says that she thinks all such performances are wicked, tempting Providence to win the applause of men. Nothing would induce her to look upon such things. She is a born reformer and would abolish all such schemes. This morning she wanted us to read the 11th chapter of Hebrews to her, about faith, and when we had finished the forty verses, Anna asked her what was the difference between her and Moses. Grandmother said there were many points of difference. Anna was not found in the bulrushes and she was not adopted by a king’s daughter. Anna said she was thinking how the verse read, Moses was a proper child,” and she could not remember having ever done anything strictly “proper” in her life. I noticed that Grandmother did not contradict her, but only smiled.

June 13.—Van Amburgh’s circus was in town to-day and crowds attended and many of our most highly respected citizens, but Grandmother had other things for us to consider.

June 16.—The census man for this town is Mr. Jeudevine. He called here to-day and was very inquisitive, but I think I answered all of his questions although I could not tell him the exact amount of my property. Grandmother made us laugh today when we showed her a picture of the Siamese twins, and I said, “Grandmother, if I had been their mother I should have cut them apart when they were babies, wouldn’t you?” The dear little lady looked up so bright and said, “If I had been Mrs. Siam, I presume I should have done just as she did.” I don’t believe that we will be as amusing as she is when we are 82 years old.

June 3.—I was invited up to Sonnenberg yesterday and Lottie and Abbie Clark called for me at 5:30 p.m., with their pony and democrat wagon. Jennie Rankine was the only other lady present and, for a wonder, the party consisted of six gentlemen and five ladies, which has not often been the case during the war. After supper we adjourned to the lawn and played croquet, a new game which Mr. Thompson just brought from New York. It is something like billiards, only a mallet is used instead of a cue to hit the balls. I did not like it very well, because I couldn’t hit the balls through the wickets as I wanted to. “We” sang all the songs, patriotic and sentimental, that we could think of.

Mr. Lyon came to call upon me to-day, before he returned to New York. He is a very pleasant young man. I told him that I regretted that I could not sing yesterday, when all the others did, and that the reason that I made no attempts in that line was due to the fact that one day in church, when I thought I was singing a very good alto, my grandfather whispered to me, and said: “Daughter, you are off the key,” and ever since then, I had sung with the spirit and with the understanding, but not with my voice. He said perhaps I could get some one to do my singing for me, some day. I told him he was very kind to give me so much encouragement. Anna went to a Y.M.C.A. meeting last evening at our chapel and said, when the hymn “Rescue the perishing,” was given out, she just “raised her Ebenezer ” and sang every verse as hard as she could. The meeting was called in behalf of a young man who has been around town for the past few days, with only one arm, who wants to be a minister and sells sewing silk and needles and writes poetry during vacation to help himself along. I have had a cough lately and Grandmother decided yesterday to send for the doctor. He placed me in a chair and thumped my lungs and back and listened to my breathing while Grandmother sat near and watched him in silence, but finally she said, “Caroline isn’t used to being pounded!” The doctor smiled and said he would be very careful, but the treatment was not so severe as it seemed. After he was gone, we asked Grandmother if she liked him and she said yes, but if she had known of his “new-fangled” notions and that he wore a full beard she might not have sent for him! Because Dr. Carr was clean-shaven and also Grandfather and Dr. Daggett, and all of the Grangers, she thinks that is the only proper way. What a funny little lady she is!

May 25.—I wish that I could have been in Washington this week, to have witnessed the grand review of Meade’s and Sherman’s armies. The newspaper accounts are most thrilling. The review commenced on Tuesday morning and lasted two days. It took over six hours for Meade’s army to pass the grand stand, which was erected in front of the President’s house. It was witnessed by the President, Generals Grant, Meade, and Sherman, Secretary Stanton, and many others in high authority. At ten o’clock, Wednesday morning, Sherman’s army commenced to pass in review. His men did not show the signs of hardship and suffering which marked the appearance of the Army of the Potomac. The scenes enacted were historic and wonderful. Flags were flying everywhere and windows, doorsteps and sidewalks were crowded with people, eager to get a view of the grand armies. The city was as full of strangers, who had come to see the sight, as on Inauguration Day. Very soon, all that are left of the companies, who went from here, will be marching home, “with glad and gallant tread.”

May 23.—We arise about 5:30 nowadays and Anna does not like it very well. I asked her why she was not as good natured as usual to-day and she said it was because she got up “s’urly.” She thinks Solomon must have been acquainted with Grandmother when he wrote “She ariseth while it is yet night and giveth meat to her household and a portion to her maidens.” Patrick Burns, the “poet,” who has also been our man of all work the past year, has left us to go into Mr. McKechnie’s employ. He seemed to feel great regret when he bade us farewell and told us he never lived in a better regulated home than ours and he hoped his successor would take the same interest in us that he had. Perhaps he will give us a recommendation! He left one of his poems as a souvenir. It is entitled, “There will soon be an end to the war,” written in March, hence a prophecy. He said Mr. Morse had read it and pronounced it “tip top.” It was mostly written in capitals and I asked him if he followed any rule in regard to their use. He said “Oh, yes, always begin a line with one and then use your own discretion with the rest.”

Monday evg., May 22.—I went to Teachers’ meeting at Mrs. Worthington’s to-night. Mrs. George Willson is the leader and she told us at the last meeting to be prepared this evening to give our opinion in regard to the repentance of Solomon before he died. We concluded that he did repent although the Bible does not absolutely say so. Grandmother thinks such questions are unprofitable, as we would better be repenting of our sins, instead of hunting up Solomon’s at this late day.

May 10.—Jeff Davis was captured to-day at Irwinsville, Ga., when he was attempting to escape in woman’s apparel. Mr. Green drew a picture of him, and Mr. Finley made photographs from it. We bought one as a souvenir of the war.

The big headlines in the papers this morning say, “The hunt is up. He brandisheth a bowie-knife but yieldeth to six solid arguments. At Irwinsville, Ga., about daylight on the 10th instant, Col. Prichard, commanding the 4th Michigan Cavalry, captured Jeff Davis, family and staff. They will be forwarded under strong guard without delay.” The flags have been flying all day, and every one is about as pleased over the manner of his capture as over the fact itself. Lieutenant Hathaway, one of the staff, is a friend of Mr. Manning Wells, and he was pretty sure he would follow Davis, so we were not surprised to see his name among the captured. Mr. Wells says he is as fine a horseman as he ever saw.

May 7.—Anna and I wore our new poke bonnets to church this morning and thought we looked quite “scrumptious,” but Grandmother said after we got home, if she had realized how unbecoming they were to us and to the house of the Lord, she could not have countenanced them enough to have sat in the same pew. However, she tried to agree with Dr. Daggett in his text, “It is good for us to be here.” It was the first time in a month that he had not preached about the affairs of the Nation.

In the afternoon the Sacrament was administered and Rev. A. D. Eddy, D. D., who was pastor from 1823 to 1835, was present and officiated. Deacon Castle and Deacon Hayes passed the communion. Dr. Eddy concluded the services with some personal memories. He said that forty-two years ago last November, he presided upon a similar occasion for the first time in his life and it was in this very church. He is now the only surviving male member who was present that day, but there are six women living, and Grandmother is one of the six.

The Monthly Concert of Prayer for Missions was held in the chapel in the evening. Dr. Daggett told us that the collection taken for missions during the past year amounted to $500. He commended us and said it was the largest sum raised in one year for this purpose in the twenty years of his pastorate. Dr. Eddy then said that in contrast he would tell us that the collection for missions the first year he was here, amounted to $5, and that he was advised to touch very lightly upon the subject in his appeals as it was not a popular theme with the majority of the people. One member, he said, annexed three ciphers to his name when asked to subscribe to a missionary document which was circulated, and another man replied thus to an appeal for aid in evangelizing a portion of Asia: “If you want to send a missionary to Jerusalem, Yates county, I will contribute, but not a cent to go to the other side of the world.”

Rev. C. H. A. Buckley was present also and gave an interesting talk. By way of illustration, he said he knew a small boy who had been earning twenty five cents a week for the heathen by giving up eating butter. The other day he seemed to think that his generosity, as well as his self-denial, had reached the utmost limit and exclaimed as he sat at the table, “I think the heathen have had gospel enough, please pass the butter.”