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

Post image for John C. West–A Texan in Search of a Fight.

John C. West–A Texan in Search of a Fight.

May 19, 2013

John C. West–A Texan in Search of a Fight.

Columbia, South Carolina.

The date of May 13th was written at the depot in Augusta, Georgia, and brings me to my arrival at that place. I had intended passing on without delay, but heard from a stranger on the cars that Lieutenant Selman and my other Texas friends were at Montgomery and would be in Augusta on the next train. This determined me to spend a day in Augusta, to let them overtake me. I had my baggage carried to the Augusta Hotel, and after making myself presentable, called at Mr. Carter’s drug store and found that he had gone to Charleston to purchase a new supply of drugs. I met at the drug store Mr. Rogers, a brother of Mrs. Hardin, and who looks very much like her; spent an hour inquiring for Mr. Robert Lamar, my wife’s uncle, then walked around to Dr. Ford’s; found Miss Sallie May and Mrs. Clinch sitting in the passage; they did not recognize me and asked me to walk into the parlor. I found Dr. Ford and a patient in consultation. He seemed delighted to see me. I went into the breakfast-table, and when the ladies found me out I was plied with questions about my wife and the children, and must say here, once for all—”nunc pro tune”—that I have spent the last three days in a like agreeable task. My sweet wife seems to be beloved by every one who knows her. I stayed but a short time and learned that Mr. Clinch was mayor at Vicksburg and DeSaussure Ford was with Bragg’s army. I went to Mr. Barney Dunbar’s office and had a long talk with him; went out to Mr. Robert Lamar’s and there found that grandma and Aunt Mary were absent. When I arrived at Columbia and Augusta depot, met Lieutenant Selman, Mullens and Burwell Aycock, who had left me sick at Marshall, Texas. Aycock went to Chattanooga on account of old wounds still troubling him. After the trials and difficulties of our trip and our unpleasant separation, our meeting was a joyful occasion. They went on to Weldon and I came on to Columbia, not, however, without a serious loss—my blankets were stolen out of the cars at Branchville.

I reached Columbia at 6 o’clock a. m., and went up to Major Stark’s without giving any notice. Decca Stark was just about to start to Fairfield. She exclaimed, “I do believe it is Mr. West,” and then both looked blank until I smiled. They thought that Mary and the children must be dead, but matters were soon explained. I took breakfast with the family, and after spending the morning in giving a full account of myself and Mary, went up town; met John McDowell, from Camden; he is captain of a mounted rifle company from Montgomery, Alabama.

After dinner I walked out to Stark’s Hill to see aunties; found them all looking well, especially Aunt Mac. The garden was looking beautiful; indeed, old Columbia altogether is the handsomest place I ever saw, and I think if my Mary was with me now I would be perfectly happy. Every one here has received me so joyfully; both Mary’s friends and my own have met me so cordially that I cannot be otherwise than happy, and mother and Decca have done, and seem willing to do, so much for my comfort that I feel willing to make any sacrifice for wife to share these attentions with me. Mary is more entitled to all this pleasure than I am; but fortune dispenses favors in an inexplicable manner. I trust my wife may be here before I return to Texas. She shall not be tied down in the creek bottom forever.

On the second day I walked out to Aunt Carrie Stark’s, in company with Decca. She did not know who had called and primped up as if she expected to meet a stranger. She was delighted to see me and seemed very cheerful; introduced us to Mrs. Raoul and Mrs. Hamilton. After I started out she came into the portico with me and her manner was entirely changed; she spoke of her afflictions and seemed very sad. God has dealt very severely with her, and I pray to be delivered from such visitations, unless it be for my good, which I cannot believe. Heaven will not try me thus. We came on to Mrs. Elmore’s and saw Mrs. Elmore, Miss Cornelia and Miss Grace; Mrs. Elmore and Miss Cornelia look live years younger than they did five years ago. We came on to the city and went to the deguerrean gallery to have a copy made of Mary’s picture. Decca Stark is with me in all these visits, and seems willing to do anything for my enjoyment.

On the third day of my stay I spent the morning at home with Decca and mother. In the afternoon Decca and I walked to Sydney park and over it; saw not a soul whom we recognized. The park is wonderfully improved, and shows what energy and taste can do in a little while. There is some encouragement and satisfaction to exercise taste and energy in a country where it rains; there is none in Texas.

We called at Dr. William Reynolds’ on the way home. They are living now at the old Muller place, and have improved it vastly. Misses Jane and Sophia Reynolds have a very large school, and Mrs. Reynolds superintends the housekeeping and the comfort of the boarders, of whom they have a large number. Miss Jane was sick, but Mrs. Reynolds and Miss Sophia and Miss Sophy Niel received me very joyfully. I met here two of old Dr. DeLeon’s daughters from Columbia. All parties were anxious to hear of my Aunt Catherine Eccles and of the other children. Part of the improvement consists in the removal of the exclusive-looking, tall plank fence, which is replaced by an iron railing. The flower garden is tastily arranged and there is generally an inviting air about the entire premises. A graduate will not look back upon the place as an escaped convict views and remembers the penitentiary.

The fourth day of my stay in Columbia was Sunday. I attended the Baptist church in the morning and in the evening and the Episcopal in the afternoon. The Baptist meeting house is quite handsomely finished and does credit to the taste of the denomination here. There is also in it a magnificent organ, said to be the finest in the city. Its tones are grand and full, and it certainly adds greatly to the beauty and solemnity of the worship and services. The building will seat comfortably over two thousand persons.

On Monday, the fifth day, I took breakfast with Major Stark, at 6 o’clock in the morning, and walked with him out to the farm and over it. A place with such water privileges would be invalvaluable in Texas. Vegetables of every description could be had all the year round. I looked at the overseer’s house and the well so close, the garden and the chicken yard, and thought how happy and blest Mary would be if she were there. Ought we to return to South Carolina? Oh, for light and direction on this subject! Have I the right to debar a pure, good woman from all the endearments and joys of home, because she loves me and is ready and willing to make any sacrifice for me? I returned home by Stark’s Hill and took’ breakfast with aunties, and had a pleasant visit. Aunt Mary gave me a very nice blanket with which to replace my lost one. I came by Mrs. Singleton’s and stayed an hour; made the acquaintance of Captain Haskell, who seems to be a very gentlemanly and sensible person; think I would like him very much on further acquaintance.

Came home and walked up town with Major Stark to see about having my transportation changed so as to permit me to go to Charlotte instead of going back to Kingsville. Mr. J. Pringle Smith seemed very willing to accommodate me, but exhibited a very laudable disposition to avoid any violation of duty or law. He finally required me to pay my own way for fifty miles on the road, this being the difference between the distances from Kingsville to Weldon and from Columbia to Weldon.

In returning to Major Stark’s I met Mr. Lem Boykin, son of Mr. Burwell Boykin. He is captain of a company on the coast, and is as wild and ”harum scarum” as ever. After dinner I received a visit from Mr. Breaker, the Baptist minister, and his wife. He is a sensible man and she is a pretty woman. Of course such company is always pleasant.

I walked with Decca to the daguerrean gallery; got the copy of my Mary’s picture; am only tolerably pleased with it, but doubt not it will console me in some degree in the long, weary hours I must be away from her. Perhaps I may never see her again until she is a radiant angel in the skies; and I trust in God that whatever other punishment or destiny may await me for my short-comings in this life, that I may not be shut out from the light of my Mary’s face forever. To me there will be but one other countenance in heaven to compare with it and divide my worship—my mother’s!

From the window of the daguerrean gallery we witnessed the parade of the Arsenal cadets. They presented an unusually fine appearance and will doubtless do good service in this war during the next five years.

We made a call at Mr. DeSaussure’s, but did not find Mrs. Wallace and Mrs. Burroughs at home. Mr. William DeSaussure is the only person except myself who has not forgiven me for leaving Mary in Texas. We called at Mr. Shand’s on the way home, but Mrs. Wilson was out. We returned after tea and had a pleasant visit of an hour.

I forgot to say that Decca went with me to see old Mrs. Murphy after service on Sunday afternoon. The old lady was in bed, severely stricken with the palsy, but seemed animated and bright on my entrance, and talked of Mary and the pleasant times she had with her “in this very room.” She seemed very much distressed to know that her grandson and only heir was an orphan in the hands of his mother’s people, the Catholics.

Thus I have brought this hurried journal down to Tuesday morning, May the 19th, at which time I am sitting in the parlor alone, and have been for an hour, waiting for mother and Decca to get up for breakfast. I have very few general comments to make on my visit; suffice it to say, that I am agreeably surprised to find that the degree of pleasure I have enjoyed in this short visit has exceeded ten-fold my anticipations. I did not think that I would receive such a hearty welcome and so much kindness. I owe it all to Mary and have regretted and still regret that I did not make the effort to bring her with me notwithstanding the difficulties and uncertainties of the route. I received the following memoranda to-day, to-wit: Miss Nannie Norton, corner of Eighth and Marshall Streets, Richmond, Va.; T. Lamar Stark, Edgefield Hussars, Captain Clark, Second Regiment S. C. V. Cavalry, Colonel Butler; Hampton’s Brigade, Va.

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