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.

February 21, 2013

The Journal of Julia LeGrand

February 21st [1863]. Yesterday the Confederates, clad in the dear gray uniform and ladened with women’s gifts, gathered, according to order, upon the levee. The Laurel Hill, contrary to expectations, came up, but meantime the Empire Parish was appointed to take them beyond the lines. The Laurel Hill lay close beside her; also the iron-clad, Star of the West. These men have been trying for months to get out, but the authorities here feared that they would join the “Rebel” army. It was not believed when the order to register was given that so many wished to go. A promise was given that at least a thousand should be sent out on the exchange vessel, but when the day came the number was cut down to three hundred. The excluded were furious, and many to whom no passports were issued would press up to mingle with the more fortunate. Thousands of women and men, whose hearts warmed to the uniform, gathered at the levee to see them off— what happened, the following quotation from a lady’s letter to her sister in Europe will tell: “I went yesterday to see some fourteen hundred exchanged Confederates leave the levee, and while the scene is still fresh in my mind, I will tell you of it. Such conduct as we witnessed! It was fit only for barbarians. At least ten thousand persons of all ages and sexes congregated on the wharf to cheer their beloved soldiers; mothers, wives, sisters and lovers were crying bitterly; many old men had handkerchiefs to their faces, others standing still with a fixed stare on the boat, which they could not approach. A steamer, the Laurel Hill, which was near, was crowded like an ant hill; all the balconies, even the roofs of the houses, were filled. Thousands of different kinds of vehicles were on the levee, all filled with ladies and children. Suddenly there was a cry of ‘Disperse the people!’ Then a company of soldiers, with bayonets fixed, rushed through the crowd. A bayonet touched my back; I was so indignant that I forgot to be afraid, nor would I have hurried had not the flying crowd pushed me on before them. I then got in the carriage of the ladies who had asked me to go with them, when presently another cry arose, ‘Let all carriages leave the street, or they shall be run over by artillery.’ ‘Pshaw,’ said I, ‘they dare not do it’ A policeman imperturbably answered me, ‘You’ll see if they dare not.’ Before the last word was said, sure enough down came a full battery in full gallop. Our horse stood upright with fright; drays, carriages, furniture carts, all got entangled. If the horses had not been more noble than their riders, they would positively have gone over us; they refused to advance until lashed to fury by the soldiers, and that pause enabled the carriage drivers to open a road for them. Such screams you never heard. The last look I gave to the levee was in time to see several women running, the foremost of whom fell, and those behind got tangled in their skirts and came down over them, while the horse’s breath, like thick smoke, fouled their upturned faces. I am sure some of them must have been killed. I should have told you that before I got into the carriage a soldier placed a bayonet across my path and forbade my going further; ‘Order as you please,’ said I, ‘but don’t dare to touch me.’ An old Irish woman shrieked out, ‘Even that divvil of a Butler had never run over the people.’ I was so indignant that I could have fought like a man. I can understand now why so few run in battle. The people who had gathered on the Laurel Hill were also ordered off, but they refused to go, saying that no artillery could reach them there. The Captain then put up steam and went out into the river; when they passed the boats containing the prisoners, their shouts rent the air. Ladies on the levee had handkerchiefs tied to their parasols, others had flowers, throwing and giving them to the Confederates who were still on their way to the boat. To some tobacco was given and to others $5.00 notes. When those on the boat saw the artillery running over the women and children, they gave the battle yell and one of them lifted a Confederate flag he had. A Federal rushed for it, but it was passed from one to another; it was got at last, however, and the soldier who bore it fell into the water amidst the shouts of laughter and clapping of hands. One Englishman cried out, ‘Oh, that the Rinaldo was here!’ A Frenchman wished for one of his war vessels, and a common Spaniard roared out, ‘In dis revolution you feared even of children.’ The negroes laughed and clapped their hands to see us run over, and one screamed out, ‘Here, let me get outof this d—d secesh.’ The carriages were not allowed to remain even one square from the levee. Our General Clarke was among the prisoners; he was carried on a litter by the gentlemen and attended by Doctor Stone.”

This quotation from Mrs. Roselius’s letter gives but half of the horrors of the scene. The whole town is talking of the disgraceful behavior of the Federal authorities. These men had been promised that they should go out; passes had been refused them, and when discovered running the blockade they were shot down. The number had been cut down to three hundred who were allowed to go on the Government boat, which fact gave disappointment to many. The Federals say they do not intend to recruit for the “Rebel” service. Mrs. Norton was down town in the morning, but she did not go to the levee. She met a Confederate soldier dressed in the dear gray and presented him a $5.00 note which she happened to have about her. He took it as a keepsake; shook hands with her, and hoped some day to see her again. She told him that it did her heart good to look at him. The Federals with all their gay parade here are solitary and alone in all their drills and marches; nothing shows the tone of the public mind here more than this. No boys ever follow them except a few daring ones sometimes who hurrah for Jeff Davis, “Stonewall” Jackson or Beauregard in their very faces. Sometimes the “Bonny Blue Flag” is sung to them and children have been arrested for this offence. Our Confederates, after they began to gather, were followed street by street with loving eyes and loving cries; hands were shaken that had never met, and alas, were likely never to meet again. Here the words, “God bless you, God speed you,” really meant much. The Federals felt keenly the magic of the words, “Our soldiers.” One officer was heard to remark, “This looks like a of a Union city to-day.” It is wonderful how soon we have learned to love the stars and bars. I thought I never should at first, but I do now. An adopted child is more tenderly thought of than an unworthy son or daughter, though a wild regret may ever mingle with the anger and scorn which an insulted parent must feel.

The boat which was carried out into the stream went farther down the river; the Captain told the ladies he intended to take them to Fort Jackson. They begged him to go back, as many had left infants at home; he would take them back, he said, if they would behave themselves. Finding that he had no such intentions, they all commenced to sing the “Bonny Blue Flag,” “My Maryland,” “Jeff Davis is a Gentleman,” and every other revolutionary air they could think of. Of course “Dixie” was not forgotten. All this was imprudent, to say the least of it; it would have been more lady-like to have been quiet. They were in Yankee power, and it was shown to them as harshly as possible. They were kept on this boat until next day; they had nothing to eat but some crackers so old, it is said, they were made in 1812. Children were crying because they had nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat. When the boat stopped to coal a few hardy women got off and walked home, three or four miles, a great distance for a Louisiana woman. There are hundreds of incidents connected with this affair; some of a serious and others of a laughable nature. One lady was killed that I know of; it is feared others were. The papers do not dare mention what happened; the Yankee Era did say that all next day people were running about in a distracted manner looking up lost relatives. One nurse with a child is missing. We hope the Confederates saw it all well and will report it outside; it will swell the battle cry. The old one of “Remember Butler and New Orleans,” did the Confederacy good service; it acted like an inspiration to Louisiana soldiers. Even after this scene, the Yankee Era came out with a flaming article about the Union feeling of this city. There are hundreds more people who hate the Yankees to-day than there were a week ago. The whole matter was repudiated by General Banks next day. Some say French sent the artillery down. Some German captain will have to bear the infamy of charging with bayonets women and children who had come to say farewell to dear ones they might never see again. The people here have had their feelings pent-up so long that they might have been allowed this one vent in peace. Many handkerchiefs were bayoneted, also dresses; only one man was actually struck that I heard of. One Federal soldier said to another that they had stove in the “rebellion,” “broke its backbone to-day.” Mary Ogden heard this herself. The Ogden girls were not on the ground, but near Greenville on the river bank; they placed a striped shawl on a pole under the pretence of drying it; they knew the Confederates when they passed would understand and cheer what they meant for a flag. Their Uncle Walter, fearing some insult from it, made them take it down. They waited long for the Empire Parish to pass, but went home without seeing her. The soldiers did not get off until next day. The Federals, intentionally, it is believed, ran her against the iron-clad Star of the West, lying close by her. This was done in broad daylight. It is said they wish to sink our soldiers. Of course the boat was disabled and the soldiers detained. They had nothing to eat, and dear ones on the shore were not allowed to take them anything. They don’t wish these men to go into the Confederacy until after the fight at Vicksburg and at Port Hudson are over. These are imminent, they say, but it is believed by many that the long delay has been occasioned by a fear to commence. The Federal army here is not thought true to Federal interests. The Western men read constantly of opposition to their Government in their own States. A Western Republic is constantly talked of. It is proposed to “Leave New England, the author of the mischief, out in the cold.”

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