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

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Diary of David L. Day.

February 28, 2014

David L Day–My diary of rambles with the 25th Mass

Secesh Ladies.

Feb. 29. Most of the residents in town are women and small children, and a few old men. Of course the colored people are with us always. All the men being away, makes society for the Indies a little one-sided. At the evacuation most of the women remained here to take care of their property, and there are very few empty houses. These ladies pretend to have a great contempt for Yankees, but still they don’t appear to have quite enough to prevent their talking or chatting with us. On sunny days they may be seen at the windows or on the verandas, and a passing soldier who touches his cap in a respectful manner will perhaps get an invitation to call. If he conducts himself with propriety and is agreeable, they will ask him to be seated or perhaps ask him into the house, and on leaving, if he happens to suit them, they will invite him to call again, but some of them are not always so agreeable that a second call is desirable. These ladies pride themselves on being the regular F. F. V’s, and have a great pride of birth and ancestry; they will sit by the hour and talk and boast of it. They claim to be the real thoroughbreds and can trace their lineage in a direct line right straight back to William and Mary.

One day, while a party of them were talking that kind of nonsense and making right smart of fun of the mixed Yankee race, I said: “So far as anything that I know to the contrary that may all be as you say, but if appearances go for anything one would naturally conclude that some of the colored people about here might boast that some of William’s and Mary’s blood coursed through their veins.” That seemed to bring a sort of coldness over the meetin’, and I began to suspect that I had seriously offended, but they soon rallied and the conversation drifted into other and more agreeable channels.

.Some of the ladies are very agreeable conversationalists when they converse on something besides politics and secession, but what they say does not disturb me. I rather enjoy it, and have the fun of laughing at them. One day, in company with a party of them, they were having right smart of fun, laughing and making sport of the Yankees. I kept my end up as well as I could against such odds until they tired of it, when they switched off into secession and the war. On a table lay a small Confederate flag which one of them took up, and flaunting it around asked me how I liked the looks of it, remarking that it would finally triumph. I said that was no novelty to me, I had had the honor of helping capture quite a number of those things, “That does not represent anything, ladies; if you take any pleasure in keeping that little flag to look at occasionally as a curiosity, I presume there is no one who has the slightest objection, but be sure of one thing, you will never again see it floating in the breeze in this town.”

One replied: “You seem to feel pretty secure in your holding here, but it would not take a large force of our troops to set you Yankees scampering towards Fortress Monroe.”

“I know, but whatever force it might take, your people don’t care to pay the cost of retaking it. Your people have too many other jobs on hand at present, and a good prospect of having more to take much trouble about this place, besides it is of no use to them anyway and but very little use to us.”

Some of the women here seem to think it a mark of loyalty to their cause to exhibit all the contempt they can towards the Yankees. I fell in with a party of that kind one afternoon out in the churchyard. I sometimes go in there and spend an hour looking around and scraping the moss off those ancient stones to find names and dates, and I have found some that date back into the 17th century. In this yard are some 20 or 30 mounds beneath which sleep the Confederate dead, killed in the battle here or brought from other fields; at any rate they are here and the mounds are kept covered with flowers and evergreens. One day while looking around there a party of women entered, bringing wreaths of evergreen and commenced decorating those graves. I approached to within a respectful distance and watched them perform their sad rites of love and affection. When they had finished one of them, pointing at me, addressed me in this beautiful language: “But for you, you vile, miserable Yankees, these brave men would now be adorning their homes.”

Not knowing exactly whether they would or not, or just how much of an adornment they would have been, I deemed the most fitting reply to that crazed woman was dignified silence.

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