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

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Frights and Perils in Steele’s Bayou

July 16, 2012

War Diary of a Union Woman in the South by Dora Richards Miller

Wednesday, July 16, 1862. (Under a tree on the bank of Steele’s Bayou.)—Early this morning our boat was taken out of the Mississippi and put on Mr. Fetler’s ox-cart. After breakfast we followed on foot. The walk in the woods was so delightful that all were disappointed when a silvery gleam through the trees showed the bayou sweeping along, full to the banks, with dense forest trees almost meeting over it. The boat was launched, calked, and reloaded, and we were off again. Towards noon the sound of distant cannon began to echo around, probably from Vicksburg again. About the same time we began to encounter rafts. To get around them required us to push through brush so thick that we had to lie down in the boat. The banks were steep and the land on each side a bog. About 1 o’clock we reached this clear space with dry shelving banks and disembarked to eat lunch. To our surprise a neatly dressed woman came tripping down the declivity bringing a basket. She said she lived above and had seen our boat. Her husband was in the army, and we were the first white people she had talked to for a long while. She offered some corn-meal pound-cake and beer, and as she climbed back told us to “look out for the rapids.” H. is putting the boat in order for our start and says she is waving good-bye from the bluff above.


Note: To protect Mrs. Miller’s job as a teacher in New Orleans, the diary was published anonymously, edited by G. W. Cable, names were changed and initials were often used instead of full names — and even the initials differed from the real person’s initials.

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