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.

February 20, 2013

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

20th.—A letter this morning from Sister M., who has returned to her home on the Potomac. She gives me an account of many “excitements” to which they are exposed from the landing of Yankees, and the pleasure they take in receiving and entertaining Marylanders coming over to join us, and others who go to their house to “bide their time” for running the blockade to Maryland. “Among others,” she says, “we have lately been honoured by two sprigs of English nobility, the Marquis of Hastings and Colonel Leslie of the British army. The Marquis is the future Duke of Devonshire. They only spent the evening, as they hoped to cross the river last night. They are gentlemanly men, having no airs about them; but ‘my lord’ is excessively awkward. They don’t compare at all in ease or elegance of manner or appearance with our educated men of the South. They wore travelling suits of very coarse cloth—a kind of pea-jacket, such as sailors wear. As it was raining, the boots of the Colonel were worn over his pantaloons. They were extremely tall, and might have passed very well at first sight for Western wagoners! We have also had the Rev. Dr. Joseph Wilmer with us for some days. He is going to Europe, and came down with a party, the Englishmen included, to cross the river. The Doctor is too High Church for my views, but exceedingly agreeable, and an elegant gentleman. They crossed safely last night, and are now en route for New York, where they hope to take the steamer on Wednesday next.” She does not finish her letter until the 17th, and gives an account of a pillaging raid through her neighbourhood. She writes on the 14th: “There had been rumours of Yankees for some days, and this morning they came in good earnest. They took our carriage horses, and two others, in spite of our remonstrances; demanded the key of the meat-house, and took as many of our sugar-cured hams as they wanted; to-night they broke open our barn, and fed their horses, and are even now prowling around the servants’ houses in search of eggs, poultry, etc. They have taken many prisoners, and all the horses they could find in the neighbourhood. We have a rumour that an infantry force is coming up from Heathsville, where they landed yesterday. We now see many camp-fires, and what we suppose to be a picket-fire, between this and the Rectory. My daughters, children and myself are here alone; not a man in the house. Our trust is in God. We pray not only that we may be delivered from our enemies, but from the fear of them. It requires much firmness to face the creatures, and to talk with them. The Eighth New York is the regiment with which we are cursed. The officers are polite enough, but are determined to steal every thing they fancy.” On the 15th she says: “This morning our enemies took their departure, promising to return in a few days. They visited our stable again, and took our little mare ‘Virginia.’ The servants behaved remarkably well, though they were told again and again that they were free.” Again, on the 17th, she writes: “I saw many of the neighbours yesterday, and compared losses. We are all pretty severely pillaged. The infantry regiment from Heathsville took their departure on Sunday morning, in the ‘Alice Price,’ stopped at Bushfield, and about twelve took breakfast there. Mr. B. says the vessel was loaded with plunder, and many negroes. They took off all the negroes from the Mantua estate; broke up the beautiful furniture at Summerfield, and committed depredations everywhere. A company of them came up as far as Cary’s on Saturday evening, and met the cavalry. They stole horses enough on their way to be pretty well mounted. They will blazon forth this invasion of a country of women, children, and old men, as a brilliant feat! Now that they are gone, we breathe more freely, but for how long a time?” We feel very anxious about our friends between the Rappahannock and Potomac, both rivers filled with belligerent vessels; but they have not yet suffered at all, when compared with the lower Valley, the Piedmont country, poor old Fairfax, the country around Richmond, the Peninsula; and, indeed, wherever the Yankee army has been, it has left desolation, behind it, and there is utter terror and dismay during its presence.

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