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

Post image for Diary of a Southern Refugee, Judith White McGuire.

Diary of a Southern Refugee, Judith White McGuire.

January 8, 2013

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

January 8th.—On the 16th of December, the day after the last entry in my diary, I went to Richmond, and found B. B. at the house of Mr. P., on Grace Street, surrounded by luxury, and the recipient of unnumbered kindnesses; but so desperately ill! The surgeons had been up all night in the various hospitals, and, as numerous as they were, they were sadly deficient in numbers that night. The benevolent Dr. Bolton had taken his wife and her sister, who had learned the art of binding up wounds, to his hospital, and all night long they had been engaged most efficiently in their labour of love. Other ladies were engaged in offices of mercy. Women who had been brought up surrounded by the delicacies and refinements of the most polished society, and who would have paled at the sight of blood under other circumstances, were bathing the most frightful gashes, while others were placing the bandages. I found B. suffering the most intense agony, and Mrs. P. agitated and anxious. No surgeon could be obtained for private houses. I sent for one, who was not an army surgeon, to come at once. He sent me word that he had been up all night, and had just retired. Again I sent to implore him to come; in five minutes he was there. He told me at once that his situation was critical in the extreme; the Minié ball had not been extracted; he must die, if not soon relieved. He wanted assistance—another surgeon. To send in pursuit of Dr. Gibson for my brother, then stationed at Camp Winder, and to telegraph for his father, occupied but a few moments; but the surgeons could not come. Hour after hour I sat by him. To cut off his bloody clothes, and replace them by fresh ones, and to administer the immense doses of morphine, was all that Mrs. P. and myself could do. At dark, Surgeons G. and B., accompanied by my brother, arrived. They did what they could, but considered the case hopeless. His uncle, General C., arrived, to our great relief. He joined us in nursing him during the night. The cars were constantly coming in. Shouts of victory and wails for the dead were strangely blended. I was glad that I did not hear during that dreadful night that the body of that bright, beautiful boy, that young Christian hero, Randolph Fairfax, had been brought to town. The father, mother, sisters !—can they bear the blighting stroke ? The hope, the pride, almost the idol of the family, thus suddenly cut down! We, too, mourn him dead, as we had loved and admired him living. We had watched his boyhood and youth, the gradual development of that brilliant mind and lofty character. His Christian parents are bowed down, but not crushed; their future on earth is clouded; but by faith they see his abundant entrance into the kingdom of heaven, his glorious future, and are comforted. Another young Christian soldier of the same battery was shot down about the same moment—our young friend David Barton, of Winchester. Three months ago his parents buried their oldest son, who fell nobly defending his native town, and now their second has passed into heaven. The Church mourns him as one who was about to devote his life to her sacred cause, but who felt it his duty to defend her against the hosts who are desecrating her hallowed precincts. How many, oh, how many of the young soldiers of the Cross are obliged to take up carnal weapons, to “save from spoil that sacred place!” Poor fellows! their life’s blood oozes out in a great cause. But our church!

“Will she ever lift her head
From dust, and darkness, and the dead?”

Yes, the time is at hand when she, our Southern Church, shall

“Put all her beauteous garments on,
And let her excellence be known.
Decked in the robes of righteousness,
The world her glory shall confess.

“No more shall foes unclean invade
And fill her hallowed walls with dread;
No more shall hell’s insulting host
Their victory and thy sorrows boast.”

The churches of Fredericksburg suffered dreadfully during the bombardment. Some were torn to pieces. Our dear old St. George’s suffered very little; but a shell burst through her revered walls, and her steeple was broken by a passing shot. She stands a monument of Vandalism, though still a Christian chapel, from which the Gospel will, I trust, be poured forth for many years, when we shall no longer be surrounded by those who cry, “Raze it, raze it, even to the foundations thereof.”

But to return to my patient. After days and nights of watching, I left him improving, and in the hands of his parents. The physicians seem still doubtful of the result, but I am full of hope. The ball, after much difficulty, was extracted, since which time he has gradually improved; but his sufferings have been indescribable, W. B. C. is also slowly convalescing. One night while sitting up with B., together with a surgeon and General C., when we had not been able to raise him up for two days, we were startled by his springing from the bed in agony, and running to the fire; the surgeon (his uncle) gently put his arm around him and laid him on the couch. I hastened to the bed to make it comfortable; but it was so large that I could not raise it up; at last I called out, “General, help me to make up this bed; come quickly!” In an instant the large feather bed was grasped by him with strength and skill, turned over and beaten thoroughly, the mattrass replaced; then to help me to spread the sheets, smooth the pillows, etc., was the work of a moment. The patient was replaced in bed and soothed to sleep. Not till then did I remember that my companion in making the bed was one who but a short time before had led his brigade in the hottest of the fight, and would, perhaps, do it again and again. I complimented him on his versatility of talent, and a pleasant laugh ensued. During the Christmas holidays, while most anxious about our wounded, a letter from Kentucky reached us, announcing the death of my lovely niece, Mrs. K. As soon as her home on the Mississippi became surrounded by the enemy, she was obliged to leave it. She then joined her husband, who is on General Breckinridge’s staff, and stationed near Knoxville. As her health was very delicate, she determined, as soon as General B. was ordered off, to attempt to get to her mother in Kentucky; her husband placed her in the care of an elderly physician and friend, who accompanied her in a carriage across the mountains, as the public conveyances between those hostile regions are, of course, discontinued. Before she had travelled many days she was compelled to stop at a small house on the roadside, and there, with much kindness from the hostess, and from her travelling companion, but none of the comforts to which she had been accustomed, she suffered intensely for many days, and then attempted to go on. She reached Georgetown, Kentucky, which was her summer home; her mother was telegraphed for, and reached, her just three days before she breathed her last. Dear H.! another victim of the war; as much so as was her brother, who received his mortal wound at Dranesville, or her brother-in-law, who was shot through the heart at Pea Ridge. Her poor mother deemed it a blessed privilege to be able to be with her in her dying hour; a comfort which she did not experience after her long trip to see her son. I fear she will sink under accumulated misfortunes; cut off as she is from all that makes life bearable under such circumstances. During the campaign of last summer around Richmond, she describes her feelings as being anxious and nervous beyond expression. She heard nothing but threats against us, and braggadocio, until she believed that we must be crushed; the many Southerners around her could not express their feelings except in subdued whispers. The Cincinnati and Covington papers expressed their confidence of success. Each day she would go to Cincinnati to hear the news, and come back depressed; but on the sixth day after the battles commenced, as she took her usual morning walk, she observed that the crowd around the telegraph office was more quiet than usual. As she approached, “curses, not loud, but deep,” reached her ear. Hope dawned upon her subdued spirit. “Is there any thing the matter?” she asked, meekly, of the first gentlemanly-looking man she saw. “The matter!” he exclaimed. “Oh! madam, we are defeated. McClellan is retreating down the river towards Harrison’s Landing. I don’t know where that is, but we are shamefully beaten.” She did not allow herself to speak, but rapidly wended her way home, her face bathed in tears of thankfulness, and singing the Gloria in Excelsis.

Several days ago General Bragg reported a victory at Murfreesboro’, Tennessee. There was certainly a victory on the first day, as 4,000 prisoners were secured, with thirty-one pieces of cannon, and sent to Chattanooga. On the third day the enemy were reinforced, and our army was obliged to fall back. A friend remarked that the Bragg victories never seem to do us much good. The truth is, the Western Yankees fight much better than the Eastern, and outnumber us fearfully. They claim the victory, but acknowledge the loss of 30,000 men. It must have been a most severe conflict. At Vicksburg they have made another attack, and been repulsed; and yet another misfortune for them was the sinking of their brag gun-boat Monitor. It went down off Cape Hatteras. In Philadelphia the negroes and Abolitionists celebrated the 1st of January with mad demonstrations of delight, as the day on which Lincoln’s proclamation to abolish slavery would take effect. In Norfolk the negroes were deluded by the Abolitionists into great excitement. Speeches were made, encouraging them to take up arms against their masters! Hale has offered a resolution in the Northern Congress to raise two hundred regiments of negroes! The valiant knight, I hope, will be generalissimo of the corps. He is worthy of the position!

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