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.

March 21, 2013

The Journal of Julia LeGrand


March 21st [1863]. I have not written, because Ginnie has been sick, and I have been far from well, and nothing has appeared worthy of record. Thousands of rumors are floating, and all our conversation is made up of a record of them. Mary Ogden and Jule were down again from Greenville, to gather as much excitement as possible. The voice which proclaims the daily, hourly coming of the Confederates is swelling louder. We whisper (not so softly as when Butler was here) and tell what Mrs. This One said, and Mrs. The Other One has heard, and feed ourselves with hope that we are soon to take New Orleans back; break our chains; go where we please, and finish the war. I told Mr. Randolph, though, this morning, that I did not intend to grow the least excited on the subject, as I did last summer, and that I never would believe anything until I heard the cannon. A very loud one was fired near us yesterday, and for one moment my heart leaped up. For the first time in a long series of months I would be glad to hear of an attack on this city. Now the attack, the taking and the holding seem natural enough and easy to do. The city is poorly defended now, and we have captured quite a show of a navy from the enemy. The Indianola is said to be all safe by those coming in. It is reported that Farragut’s vessel and the one that passed the batteries with her, has been captured above Baton Rouge. We know that Banks has had to fall back upon that place, after having made an advance. ‘Tis said that we will attack him there; some say that we have already done so. Reports of wounded and killed vary—some say 1,700; others 8,000. Forty ambulances with wounded have been brought here, though these are said to have come from Weitzel’s command, which is somewhere in the LaFourche country. One ambulance has just passed here, followed by two vehicles containing women and children. One of the women in a long sun-bonnet was bending over as if weeping; some soldier who enlisted here “for his thirteen dollars a month and grub,” perhaps. While at Greenville I saw two ambulances with dead bodies in them. From one the stiff feet and legs stuck out at one end; the shoes’ were still on and the blue uniform, which we have learned to hate so. This was a dreadful sight to me; how can one survive the horrors of a battlefield! Mrs. Waugh has heard that her son Charley is at Tangipaho—a sort of camp of detention and instruction about thirty miles from here. He is in Breckinridge’s Division, and loves his old commander so much that he would never have joined any other when he returned from his parole here; we therefore infer that Charley Lord is with Breckinridge at Tangipaho, and that the Confederates are really near here and thinking of coming in. These are the straws to which we cling. Mrs. Waugh has also heard from her son Arthur; that he is at Tangipaho; why are these veterans of at least twenty battle-fields at a camp of instruction so near us?

Letters from Charley Chilton say that Billy Ogden (who was stationed when last we heard at Fredericksburg) is also in Hinds county; so is Sydney Harrison, his cousin. Charley cannot tell us what all these young men are doing there lest some of these prying Federals get hold of the letter, but he says we may all meet soon again. Letters from Mrs. Brown and Mary Lu Harrison have also come. The young people outside have been amusing themselves with love affairs. They tell on each other when they write, and in this way we become familiar with the whole programme. Mrs. B. says Mary Lu is engaged to Jimmy Perkins, a Virginia soldier and a great-grandson of Patrick Henry’s. Charley Chilton is engaged, Mary Lu says, to Miss Stokes, of Clinton. (I thought he loved Bettie Smith when he left here.) Sarah Chilton has been reaping coquettish honors on a large scale. She went to Mollie Emanuel’s wedding, in Vicksburg, and attracted much attention. She is very pretty, and knows it well. She has an inordinate love of admiration, very unlike her cousin, Mary Lu, who has really romantic ideas in love. There were some very distinguished people at Miss E.’s wedding, the letters say, and by these people Sarah was particularly admired. She is much talked of, they say. We are left to guess who the distinguished people are. President Davis was in Vicksburg when the wedding came off, and I expect was there, but he is married. Pemberton is in command, also Lee, somewhere in that region—one or both of these may be captive to the young beauty. It reminds one of the old, old days, this company—feasting, riding, dancing and love-making and slaying of men’s hearts. Fred Ogden, too, the young captain of a gun or two at Vicksburg, is engaged to somebody, whose name I can not learn. The girls here have no beaux to look at but the Federal officers, who receive anything but loving looks, and the British officers who, belonging to but a ship or two, cannot serve for all. The Stay-at-homes are not in good repute. It is reported that the Federals are about to conscript the latter class who have taken the oath. We wish they would, and arm them well; they would not be of much service to poor old “Uncle Sam.” The Budget of Fun has a picture or representation of Uncle Sam being bled by the Doctor (Chase), who holds a bowl labeled “U. S. Treasury.” The stream from poor Uncle’s arm is called “Taxes.” The patient complains of great weakness, though clad in stars and stripes, but is persuaded by Chase that he can hold out a little longer. A sideview gives Louis Napoleon and John Bull arm-in-arm, with “Wait till he gets weaker, and then we will cut in.”

Do you know, my poor journal, that these very, very funny things, about matters so very, very serious, make me sigh! Uncle Sam’s weakness gives me no pleasure, good Confederate as I am. Oh, why, in his strength, did he not let us go! Read a beautiful speech of Ben Wood’s begging for peace; another of Henry May’s calling for peace and instant recognition. This is an inferior speech as regards eloquence, and from a Marylander, disappointed me. I was angry enough with Henry May for having accepted a seat in the United States Congress on any terms. He says himself that the people of Maryland have been treated in the most tyrannical manner. He also says he accepted the seat to keep it from another, who might do Maryland more harm. The only way to honor the poor old State is to repudiate a seat in that infamous horde altogether. Vorhees’ speech on the habeas corpus bill is good, strong argument, all of it, though it is not embued with the sentiment of tenderness as is Wood’s. It is not without many noble protests that the Northern people are yielding up their Magna Charta. I see that at the closing of Congress, that Lincoln was endowed with every power of dictator. Treasury, personal liberty, army and navy, and the people at large to conscript at will—are at his disposal. They are so anxious—the poor Northerners—to make chains for us to wear, that they forget that they are being fitted on their own stalwart limbs. It seems that heaven has stricken this people with political blindness.

There have been so many people here today that my head is in a whirl with the rumors I have heard. We have the Hartford, the Albatross; Farragut, a prisoner, is on his way to Richmond, where he will be held as hostage for Butler; Banks’ men have mutinied—they have, before battle, declared their intention to run, and, after being blindly trusted by Banks after such sincere demonstrations, they have been straightway as good as their word. The Confederates are building a bridge at Manchac, over which they are to walk straightway to this city, having Banks’ army and Farragut’s fleet in sort of a military calaboose. A young lady, a supposed spy of the Confederates, was shaking her head in a very peculiar way; said “Yes” or “No” to several political questions in a mysterious manner; said young lady just in from the Confederacy— left there last Saturday evening about dusk— was escorted to the boat by Lieutenant Miller, a gallant young Confederate, who told her all sorts of things, and likewise shook his head, and having performed this expressive pantomime, showed her practically the lumber of which the Manchac bridge was to be built, and told her of the dispatch which he had at that moment received, saying that Banks had been whipped, and that the Stars and Bars were floating over land and wave at Baton Rouge. Federal officers of high rank have been known to cry out almost in anguish, “Oh, if we could only hear from Banks!” They have been in such a wretched state of mind that they made their longing speeches in the very faces of good Confederates. Others have been heard to say that they would go up to Baton Rouge immediately—if they were only sure of getting back. Weitzel’s whole army has been cut off from all communication in LaFourche from this city. His dead and wounded have come in, but the bridge has since been destroyed. The artillery which was sent off to-day, bag and baggage, have come back; the provisions which were also sent to his assistance have returned also. In short, we Confederates here have set things going in an entirely new and spirited style—and we are to have this city back in a day or two, at furthest—some say to-morrow, some are considerate enough to wait until Tuesday next. Stonewall Jackson will certainly be here before the week is out. In fact, we are having over again the scenes of last summer up till the time of the loss of that Phoenix, the Arkansas Ram. Federals are growing imprudent, it seems. Officers say that they know that they will be captured here and tried for their lives. Oh, that I should waste paper in these hard times, when cotton is being burned by proud Confederates every day, with such a medley as private conversations are made of now! We women are at a loss to know quite what we shall do after we hear the cannon. Shall we shut up our doors to keep scared contrabands from claiming fellowship with us, or run out to shake hands with our soldiers!

There is sometimes a reverse picture. Mrs. Norton sent Mary Jane, the servant, to pump political information from the Yankee woman who lives in a small house at the corner, captured from Mr. Phillips. The woman, whose husband is in the Federal army at Baton Rouge, has her plans laid out as regularly as ours. The Monitor has passed the Port Hudson batteries; Farragut is safe and well, on the flagship Hartford; Port Hudson is entirely torn to pieces, and the Confederates and Federals are near enough for conversation—in short, she will have the “rebellion” over in a few days. All these statements, and the reverse, come from the most reliable people. I think the fabled well has caved in and covered up dear Truth forever. If she survives sufficiently after this war is over to give us a history of it, it will be more than I expect of her. Some earnest articles in Northern papers are calling for true statements to be made to the people. The war has been kept up by deception. It is time that the North should know that her enemy is quick in resource, brave, vigilant, determined and persevering—that she has been unfortunate on land and sea; that her foe is neither too naked or starved too much to fight valiantly, and that last of all, that the famous canal is a failure. The proud Northern transports will never sail through it to carry soldiers to die on the Walnut Hills. The upper army is in sad plight; that I can see from their own papers. The constant rising of the Mississippi deprives them even of a dry camp. The sun is growing quite hot now, and mosquitoes must begin to torment the sick and suffering. I feel sorry for the thousands of poor aching heads that are now lying far from woman’s kindly aid, in many a dismal camp, both Federal and Confederate. I feel oftener sorry for the Federals, I believe, though the Confederates are dearer. Our boys are sustained by the knowledge that they are right. Who would not be sustained for fighting for hearthstone and native land! The constant statements of the Northern papers prove that the Federal army is dissatisfied and in a state of demoralization. Hooker has just dismissed forty officers in disgrace. A few days ago he had to shoot at the privates, right and left. In this town soldiers are deserting constantly, I know. From all accounts it would seem that Banks has found in New Orleans a Capua—though he is no Hannibal. Fifteen hundred deserters have been taken up recently in New York City. The Administration blames the Generals, Admirals and contractors, and changes them forthwith; the people blame the Administration, and so the papers get filled with complaints. Only a few wise, noble men assail the Cause; and these are not hearkened to or obeyed. There is a goodly show of verse in town commemorating Strong’s dispersing the members of Doctor Goodrich’s church. I have not seen them. Doctor Goodrich, now in New York, writes to his wife. I believe I have recorded that he and two others—Mr. Fulton and Doctor Leacock—were refused a landing here because they had refused to take the oath. In the St. Nicholas Hotel, New York, Colonel Strong met Doctor Goodrich, and remembering his face, and not where he had seen it, spoke to him and asked his name. “I, sir,” said the minister, “am Doctor Goodrich, of St. Paul’s Church, New Orleans, and you, sir, are Colonel Strong.” He then turned on his heel and left him. I do not envy Strong’s feelings for the moment. We heard that he had had compunctions about breaking up the church, and that he was very pale and trembled, but being commissioned by the strong-willed Butler, obeyed. I was told that Strong said he thought the women would fly at him. This accounts for his paleness, I suppose.

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