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

Post image for Journal of Julia LeGrand.

Journal of Julia LeGrand.

January 8, 2013

The Journal of Julia LeGrand

January 8th [1863]. To-day a great show of artillery; no other parade that I see. This day, sacred to a victory over a foreign foe [battle of New Orleans, 1815], finds us in a sad plight. We Confederates are victorious, but over those who should have been our brothers. Went with Mrs. Dameron to look over her sister’s house (Mrs. Shepherd Brown), which has just been given up by one set of Federals, and another has moved in—General Banks and staff. We missed lace curtains, some parlor ornaments, and the beautiful picture of the Magdalen. We’ were treated politely by servant and orderly; with the latter we had a long talk. He is from Boston, whither he longs to return. I think he would be glad of peace on any terms. I felt not the least bitterness towards the poor fellow, who looks sad enough. We talked our views freely. I told him that my brother had last been seen in a battle of ”Stonewall’s” with this very General Banks. Banks was defeated, but I didn’t remind him of it. We took a glass of Yankee ice water. Mrs. Dameron was kind and gentle, though she had many reasons for anger, seeing these people in her absent sister’s house with the household relics scattered and the carpets worn and faded with Federal footsteps; she was driven out of her other sister’s house earlier in the fall; this last, the finest in town, is occupied by General Shepley, as they call him. Can there be a Governor who has never power to do anything? When I was there to see his lordship with Mrs. Norton, the house and furniture looked so familiar and natural that I sat there speechless at first, speculating on the strange state of things. Once I was near opening Mrs. Brown’s bed-room door. His lordship kept us waiting a long while, and when he came in with his deceitful smile I did hate him, the vulgar-minded official who imagines that place will make him a gentleman. I have heard that he was one at home, but his voice betrays him. I made as biting remarks as the business would admit of. He gave me a side glance of hatred from his leaden eye. Mrs. Norton “gave it to him,” to use her own words, but being the mother of the lady whose house and furniture he had taken possession of, he felt as if he could bear with her I suppose.

Mrs. Norton called at her daughter, Mrs. Harrison’s, house before Butler’s people left it, and asked that the sheep might be put out of the yard, as they were ruining the beautiful shrubbery. The mulatto at the gate gave her much insolence; told her “to go about her own business,” he intended that the sheep should stay there, that the shrubbery should be destroyed, and that if she had a daughter “he intended to come and see her.” My blood ran cold when she told me this, and for the first time I realized our position here among these lawless negroes. Mrs. Norton told General Shepley that she demanded of him as a gentleman and a ruler to have that man punished. She asked him what he would feel if a negro should tell him that he would visit his daughters. “I would knock him down,” replied the stalwart Governor. “Then,” says Mrs. Norton, “I demand that you punish him for me.” The smiling Governor promised to go immediately and have him arrested, but that was the last of it. I wonder how a man contrives to smile so, yet look querulous? I recalled Shakespeare when I met him, “a man may smile and smile, etc.” We had an interview with Colonel French. Mrs. Norton went to get her husband’s old gun (her husband had been dead for many years), which she had given up last summer for fear that the negroes would have her arrested, as many have been for retaining weapons. “French could do nothing; we must go to General Banks’ people.” This gentleman has nestled himself in Judge Packard’s house, a very sweet one. He was polite enough, and our interview was soon over. He looks like a great overgrown schoolboy with a lovely complexion, but there is no play of intelligence either in his face or manner. The Yankee Delta calls him the “gorgeous French.” His dress was gorgeous, being laced with gold or brass in all directions.

Called this evening on Madame Francois; met her daughter, a delicate Creole, married to a real robustious Englishman who has grown rich and important in this country; heard from him that the Federals acknowledge the capitulation of Rosecranz and the 4,000 men; heard also that the bombarding fleet has left Vicksburg to return to Memphis for fear of being cut off. Banks has requested, so report says, that no more news be printed until tomorrow, as the town is in a dreadfully excited state. He need not fear; the excitement of joy rarely injures. A flag of truce has come in—report says that Banks has refused to receive it. This cannot be so as I see prisoners are to be exchanged. It might not have been allowed to enter town for fear of excitement; the heart of the city warms to the Confederate uniform. Last summer when it was a rare sight here, we all went to a friend’s house to see a young Confederate captain who, after being confined in the custom house for some time, was allowed to be out on parole. The Ogden girls were with us. After we arrived we found the young man, a Texan, so exceedingly diffident that we were abashed. He was so alarmed that he was quite alarming. His name was Blount, and a more sincere, ingenuous and stalwart young soldier I could not wish to rely upon in time of need. He has long since been exchanged. I saw in the paper to-day that General Chalmers is wounded. His sister-in-law was here a few days ago, expressing great uneasiness for her husband, who is General Chalmers’ brother, and upon General Chalmer’s staff. She hears nothing from him and cannot get a passport to go out. The registered enemies were on the eve of departure when Banks arrived; General Butler had issued an order that they should leave, bearing with them baggage to the amount of $50 only. Hundreds were disappointed when Banks issued another order, changing the entire programme. Many families had parted with everything, having reserved only enough to bear them out, and now they are suffering. Passports are not sold now as in Butler’s day, and we rarely hear from beyond the lines. I never hear from my dear ones in Texas; the few lines from poor Claude, written with his left hand, being the last I received. He was then on his way from Virginia, having bid good-bye to “lines and tented fields” and left one gallant arm behind him. He stopped with Mrs. Chilton, who lives at Jackson, a day or two; there, I hear, he got a situation in the commissary department in Texas.

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