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 14, 2013

The Journal of Julia LeGrand

January 14th [1863]. Just this moment got a letter from Mrs. Chilton; it came from Vicksburg, where she has been to attend Miss Emanuel’s wedding. She went by boat with a flag of truce. She writes enigmatically, but informs us, who understand her, that all is safe in that region for our Confederate arms; she has just heard from our dear Claude, whom she calls Claudine, who writes with his poor left hand from Texas. All well and all safe there. She has just written to our dear sister there that we are well; I wish she could have said happy. I feel grateful to hear even through others when so many here are cut off entirely. Mrs. Stone has lost her young son in the army; so also has Mrs. Prentiss. How my heart aches for the poor desolate mothers in this cruel war. Mr. Brink came up with a few lines from Mr. Brown, written without date or signature; all are in fine spirits beyond the lines and Bragg’s fight with Rosecranz in Tennessee is considered a victory to our side in the Confederacy, though here the Yankees dole it out to us in the papers as a defeat. An order of Banks’ today enjoins on all of us a most respectful treatment of Federal soldiers; parents are to be held responsible for the behavior of the children. I had no idea rulers could descend to such trifles, for my part I consider it beneath me to treat anyone with rudeness, least of all would I treat with indignity these wretched privates who have been induced to leave their homes by thousands of pretenses, and are uncomfortable and miserable enough without our jeers. They all have a serious, heavy-hearted aspect; men fighting for home and fireside feel differently; our Confederate knights have at least this consolation to support them under all their trials. The wind blew a perfect hurricane all day; I thought of the poor soldiers at sea. Spent the evening at Mrs. Dameron’s; got an old music book containing many songs which are among my first recollections, when my father’s guitar and his melodious voice seemed to me the finest music. As I recalled one by one the friends whose voices are forever stilled, who used to sing those songs, I felt a pang like that of a new parting for each and all; my heart would cry out, “What is life after all?”

An order to-day tempting planters to bring down their produce. The earnest desire to open the river is made known by other means than those used at Port Hudson and Vicksburg. These places both hold out, though it is represented in Northern papers that both have fallen. This is a deliberate falsehood gotten up to prevent recognition. By the fall of either we would lose the supplies from Red River and Texas, upon which a large portion of our people depend, and by the seizure of the railroad which would follow, the Confederacy would be cut in half. The fleet has all left Vicksburg, being threatened from above. A large force is drilling here daily for an attack on Port Hudson. We hear that our people are killing the enemy rapidly in various portions of Louisiana, where they have been burning houses, stealing negroes and all other property, and committing frightful depredations. We Confederates of New Orleans consider that Louisiana has been neglected by our Government; Mississippi gets the credit of holding out better against the foe, but as soon as she was threatened the Government made haste to help her with tried soldiers from all parts of the Confederacy. Louisiana and Kentucky bled in defense of Vicksburg, coward “New Orleans” is the cry. There were no troops left to defend New Orleans, though such an important point. We had no soldiers except the ”Confederate Guard,” a sort of holiday regiment composed of the well-to-do old gentlemen of the city, who were anxious to show their patriotism on the parade ground, but who never expected to fight. The pomp and circumstance they kept up finely. They had beautiful tents, too, on their camping-out excursions, to which they transported comfortable bedsteads, sundry boxes and demijohns’. I have no doubt that the idea of being of immense service to a grateful country, gave quite a flavor to their expensive wines; these were our defenders, and General Lovell was given to feasting with them. They were called his pets. When the forts fell the most valiant of these gentlemen returned with General Lovell to Camp Moore, and others, using much discretion, made haste to pack away their epaulettes and became the most unassuming of citizens on a moment’s notice. We had no tried men at the forts. Congress was appealed to again and again, but the President and House seemed to keep up a hardened blindness as to its condition. I am told that Davis said that two guns could defend New Orleans, and that Benjamin laughingly said that “Timbuctoo would be attacked as soon.” Well, well, here am I writing, nearly a year after its fall, running out to look at Yankee cavalry instead of the Confederate Guards, while, more serious matter still, the poor, surprised plantations are defended by hastily gotten up guerrilla bands. There is a fight at Baton Rouge, in Yankee possession, nearly every night; no Yankee boat dares go beyond a certain distance up the river. The guerrillas, not infrequently, fire on them and sometimes capture or burn them. To what a dreadful condition is our dear country reduced—our country which once lay in happy security.

Every wile is used to obtain cotton; when it can be seized, it is, of course. Men are going round constantly buying even the smallest parcels of this now precious commodity—mattresses and small samples—offering fabulous prices for the same. On our old plantation, with what little reverence I regarded this beautiful staple! Now it seems to represent so much that it appeals to my fancy almost like a matter of poetry. “King Cotton dethroned must mount again.” How the working world is suffering for his aid. A letter has recently arrived from Mrs. Roselius’ sister, who is English and in England; she dwells much on the suffering of the people near her; she had had no idea that the world could contain such distress; she never saw anything like it in America, where she lived so long. The Government is allowing the starved operatives five cents per day. Food is as dear there as here, and I am sure that no American, no negro slave, could support life on such a sum. Ah, if men would only grow wise enough to let the evils of other countries alone until they had remedied those near them! “The Greeks are at our door,” said John Randolph once, when called on to contribute to their assistance.

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