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.

March 5, 2013

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

March 5th.—Spent last night in Richmond with my friend Mrs. R. This morning we attended Dr. Minnegerode’s prayer-meeting at seven o’clock. It is a blessed privilege enjoyed by people in town, that of attending religious services so often, particularly those social prayermeetings, now that we feel our dependence on an Almighty arm, and our need of prayer more than we ever did in our lives. The President has issued another proclamation, setting aside the 27th of this month for fasting and prayer.

Again I have applied for an office, which seems necessary to the support of the family. If I fail, I shall try to think /that it is not right for me to have it. Mr ——’s salary is not much more than is necessary to pay our share of the expenses of the mess. Several of us are engaged in making soap, and selling it, to buy things which seem essential to our wardrobes. A lady who has been perfectly independent in her circumstances, finding it necessary to do something of the kind for her support, has been very successful in making pickles and catsups for the restaurants. Another, like Mrs. Primrose, rejoices in her success in making gooseberry wine, which sparkles like champagne, and is the best domestic wine I ever drank; this is designed for the highest bidder. The exercise of this kind of industry works two ways: it supplies our wants, and gives comfort to the public. Almost every girl plaits her own hat, and that of her father, brother, and lover, if she has the bad taste to have a lover out of the army, which no girl of spirit would do unless he is incapacitated by sickness or wounds. But these hats are beautifully plaited of rye straw, and the ladies’ hats are shaped so becomingly, that though a Parisian milliner might pronounce them old-fashioned, and laugh them to scorn, yet our Confederate girls look fresh and lovely in them, with their gentle countenances and bright, enthusiastic eyes; and what do we care for Parisian style, particularly as it would have to come to us through Yankeeland? The blockade has taught our people their own resources; but I often think that when the great veil is removed, and reveals us to the world, we will, in some respects, be a precious set of antiques. The ladies occasionally contrive to get a fashion-plate “direct from France,” by way of Nassau; yet when one of them, with a laudable zeal for enhancing her own charms by embellishments from abroad, sends gold to Nassau, which should be kept in our own country, and receives in return a trunk of foreign fabrics, she will appear on the street immediately afterwards in a costume which seems to us so new and fantastic, that we are forced to the opinion that we would appear to the world ludicrously passé. A gentleman, lately from Columbia, tells me that the South Carolina girls pride themselves on their palmetto hats; and the belle of large fortune, who used think no bonnet presentable but one made by the first New York or Parisian milliner, now glories in her palmetto. The balmoral, too, the product of our own spinning-wheel and loom, would show well with the prettiest imported ones. I have seen several, which the young wearers told me were “dyed in the wool, spun, and woven by the poor of our own neighbourhood. The dye-stuffs were from our own woods.” These are little things, but, proving the independence of our people, I rejoice in them.; The croakers are now indulging themselves with fears of famine; they elongate their gloomy visages, and tell us, in sad accents, that butter was $3.50 per pound in market this morning, and other things in proportion. I am sorry to say that it is true, and that it is evident we must have scarcity, particularly of such things as butter, for the cattle must go to feed the army. The soldiers must be fed; our gardens will give us vegetables; God will give us the fruits of the earth abundantly, as in days past, and if we are reduced, which 1 do not anticipate, to bread and water, we will bear it cheerfully, thank God, and take courage:

“Brought safely by his hand thus far,
Why should we now give place to fear?”

The poor, being well supplied with Government work, are better off than usual.

All quiet in the army. This may portend a storm. Several pieces of cannon passed this morning on the Fredericksburg train. Raids still continue in the Northern Neck, keeping us very uneasy about our friends there.

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