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 22, 2013

The Journal of Julia LeGrand

Sunday, 22 [March]. General Banks arrived last night, having in train two boatloads of negroes to be put on plantations below the city. This is very nice work for an abolition General, and there is no word of it in the Yankee Era, which must keep as respectable a face as possible before the world. General Banks’ arrival is not mentioned—why, we can not say. Why he is here, thousands are at this moment at work to discover. Mrs. Norton sent Mary Jane to General Banks’ house (at least to his residence, which is her daughter’s house, and where are some of the servants left by Mrs. Harrison when she went off). Jane discovered from the servants that Banks is to return immediately; that he has brought down many servants and about twenty prisoners, and that Port Hudson has been torn to pieces, and that Farragut is quite safe and is industriously aiding the work of “Rebel” starvation by keeping guard over the mouth of Red River. Some of this information we Rebels take the liberty of doubting, though old Harriet professed to have gathered all this from Banks’ own lips by listening at the door. Of course, speculation runs riot—that the attack on Port Hudson is abandoned, and that it is not, are now matters of argument. The Yankee Era and our Federalist neighbor say that Banks did not go up to do anything, and that he has accomplished all he intended to do. Of course we are not to be so hoodwinked, and do not believe all the extravagant reports of our successes, but we do know that Banks and army sallied out of Baton Rouge, and after a few skirmishes, made a hasty retreat thereto; we also know that torn-to-pieces-Port Hudson still proudly rears her protecting crest, and while she does so Banks and his famous “expedition,” which has been filling the public mouth, has not done yet what it traveled so many miles to do. Indeed, we think of little else and talk of little else but “Banks’ Expedition.” This matter of Port Hudson seems to the public mind what Vicksburg was when she was attacked—a turning point, a crisis in our affairs. No mere battle could excite quite so many hopes and fears. Should we lose control of this great river, our chances for peace are delayed for an indefinite time, perhaps forever. Should Port Hudson fall, or Vicksburg, thousands of hearts would lose hope to struggle, though we all say, “Nothing can make us give up.” Were our supposed conquerors a different people; if the faintest shadow of generosity prevailed in the national councils, we might strike less boldly; but as matters now stand, each Southern man knows and feels that there are no such words for him as home and country unless the uncivilized hordes which desolate both are stricken low or beaten from Southern shores.

The negroes and soldiery are behaving dreadfully about Baton Rouge (in the country). My blood runs cold to think of all the dreadful deeds which have been done. Many a noble protest comes, even from the North, against the way in which this war has been carried on. Turchim, who committed unspeakable crimes in northern Alabama, and who was court-martialed and dismissed for the same by the gentlemen of the army, was afterwards rewarded by “Honest Abe” and his accomplices. Blenker’s degraded command are forever rendered infamous for their outrages in the Virginia Valley. What untold horrors have been committed and unpunished in Tennessee, Northern Mississippi, in Arkansas and Missouri! Our blood has congealed at the recitals sent us, and sleep been driven from our eyes at night by the shocking details that we can not, out of respect to public decency, reproduce. All these outrages perpetrated without inquiry and without punishment, at the hands of the commandants on the banks of the Mississippi, in Tennessee and Arkansas. Is it strange that a soldiery thus demoralized prove contemptible on the field of battle where they meet brave men! Here are accusations from a Northern paper, and they are all true: “A mournful contrast is presented to us of the North. The Confederate General Stuart made a raid into Pennsylvania with his cavalry. Like McClellan, he respected private property. Not a piece of bacon, not a chicken or a turkey was stolen from the defenceless inhabitants of Gettysburg or Chambersburg by his ragged and half-starved troops. In the language we heard from the lips of an extreme and unconditional Union man of those parts, opposite whose fine country-seat a body of Confederate cavalry bivouacked for a night and a day, ‘the Confederate forces were ragged and lousy gentlemen.’ A party of Lincoln’s cavalry had encamped on the same grounds previously, and in the language of the same unconditional Union man, their conduct proved them to be ‘Comfortably dressed blackguards.’ But the strong contrast we purposed drawing between the Confederates in Chambersburg and the Federals in Fredericksburg, is this: The Confederates visited the Chambersburg Bank and asked if there were any Government deposits there. Being satisfied that there was nothing but private property, General Stuart ordered the bank, in which he saw thousands of gold, to be locked up and guarded, and not a dollar of it was taken. In Fredericksburg, on the occasion of Burnside’s disastrous foray, while the Irish and other brave brigades were turning their reproachful eyes where Lincoln was telling his hateful jokes to his Cabinet, said, like the gladiators in the pagan arena,‘Imperator, morituri te salutant (Despot, we salute you!), and rush on to certain death. The pet regiments of the Abolitionists who did not rush on to certain death, accomplished more certainly by their victory. These Achilles of Puritanism had also among them a Homer, worthy to immortalize their deeds. The correspondent of the Abolition Daily Times, of this city (New York), felt his soul expand as he dilated on how some of the regiments with whom he stayed robbed the bank of Fredericksburg and pocketed the ‘Rebel’ gold of those Philistines—who, though non-combatants and helpless—were the proper spoils of the saints of New England!” Again: “When this war is over a charge will be made against a Federal General on the Mississippi, that after capturing slaves he hastened them off for cotton and sent the cotton to the North and sold it.” I can add that the charge can be brought against many—not one. I can prove that household furniture has been boxed up and sent to women at the North—taken from the houses captured by these people; also clothing left in houses, household treasures and luxuries, even shrubbery dug from private yards. “Those who fought with Blenker and Milroy, under Banks and Fremont, plundered and destroyed. Pope began his ignominious and short-lived career by adopting plunder as a rule.” “But why,” as this Northern journal asks, “dwell on outrages on property, when still more horrible atrocities are perpetrated and go unpunished?”

Human depravity sickens me; I must turn from the picture which our bleeding country presents. How do I know that New Orleans may not soon be called to play her part in the fearful drama! The presence of a large foreign population has hitherto preserved her from common outrage. The privates have been held in check; the officers only have robbed in the name of the law. The houses and funds of defenceless women have been seized, and numbers have been fed on charity, or starve, who, before the Federals came, were well off. No general sacking has taken place, but we are threatened with pillage and fire if the Confederates attempt to take the city. Butler did not scruple to say last summer that he had signals all ready, and a Confederate attack on this place would let San Domingo in upon us. These Federals have done so many awful things that we are prepared to believe anything of their capacity for evil. I do not judge them by Confederate accounts—in our excited state we might color too highly—but by the accounts of their own people and their protests against them. Their accusations have been as bitter as ours. It is comforting to know that there are some kindly spirits at the North.

Mary Harrison has been in from Greenville to see Ginnie, who has been sick; she brought some nice jelly which she had made herself. I told her she only wanted to show it because she had made it, but I thanked her for it, though pride did lie at the bottom; the jelly was so clear that I could see her plainly. Mary says that her father has a letter telling him that Banks’ mysterious retreat upon Baton Rouge was caused by Stonewall Jackson’s appearance in that region. These heroes have met before, and Banks remembers that meeting well, I’d warrant. If Stonewall, our dear hero, who realizes every one’s ideas of a true knight, “tender and true,” is not near at hand for our deliverance, I fear many of us will die broken-hearted. We are determined to believe that he is hovering near our lines. Lee is enough for Virginia and a dozen Hookers. Why should not Stonewall be sent to such an important point as this? Everything depends upon the conduct of affairs in this region. So we reject every wise counsel which tells us to “not put our trust in—” the coming of our favorite knight. A Confederate attack is expected, and the Federal long-roll has been beaten at dead of night. The Ogdens were all in to-day, breathless and voluble. They know Stonewall is outside—that is because of the spy story. Jule looked horrified when I said that I believed that no spy would take so many into his confidence. Everybody has a spy story now. Mrs. Carr called in a soldier from her gate who was a little, little too far advanced upon a certain road. He was a Confederate soldier in Yankee clothes, who was out of his mind (for a moment), and was blabbing Confederate secrets. After making him sleep awhile he awoke refreshed, and was able to tell her much about to happen. He knew all about the Confederates coming, but a few minutes afterwards he recovered his mind entirely and was so stricken with remorse for having revealed Confederate plans that he wanted to make all present take a solemn oath to reveal nothing. Of course, they made ready promise about keeping it, and feel so conscientious that they have only broken it to their particular friends, and that only in whispers. The particular friends who received such good tidings under protest, likewise are equally as conscientious, and have not yet proclaimed from a housetop, but have whispered in parlors and private sanctums. There is a great change in morals close at hand, at all events—we have all vowed to believe in nothing forevermore if the Confederates do not come this time. Heaven defend us from such a state of atheism. Mrs. Judge Clark is here. She is a sweet, sweet old lady, but she is deaf and has heard nothing; we had to break our promise about the whispering and scream into her ear what we knew. This is only the one infraction, however. Annie Waugh was here, and knew a great deal that her father could vouch for. Mr. and Mrs. Roselius were here, and will not believe in anything—a very uninteresting state of affairs.

Mrs. Roselius gave us, among other histories, that of Mrs. General Valle, who has excited some interest in “Rebel” bosoms by having a woman arrested for looking at her. She was a great heiress and much spoiled by her parents, who, when she came of age, looked about for some one whom she could marry. After looking far and wide for some one whom she would even think of, she remembered suddenly that she had a cousin at West Point. He was of her own blood, and she therefore determined to marry him. What she thought worthy of doing she did forthwith. I did not hear that the general (then a lieutenant) made any demur. He agreed with the lady in thinking that the human race was made that she might not be in it alone, and therefore ennuied by solitude. This lady, after marriage, thought it proper that a person in her position should set an example of conjugal affection. She therefore accompanied her husband to the Rio Grande—overlooking his command, probably. She had never eaten a dinner in her life without ice cream; therefore, the chemical apparatuses for making it were packed up among other “military necessities” of the Department of the Rio Grande. She promoted her husband, I have no doubt, for he is now a general. I am not exaggerating— this is the woman’s own story of herself, given out to an admiring circle of visitors and listeners. She travels with a legion of pillows which are arranged for her by her general and a real gentlewoman, whose reduced condition keeps her as companion to the creature. “When Mrs. General V—— walks abroad from hotel or on steamer deck her two attendants announce that “Mrs. General Valle is about to take the air.” What she may take in the future, heaven only knows! It is enough for me to remember that the newspapers say she has had a woman arrested for looking at her, and that a Northern court has supported her in the charge. She was gazing, it seems, from an open window as some women passed, one of whose regard was attracted towards her for an undue length of time. She dresses absurdly, and perhaps attracted attention on this score. “Woman, do you know who you are looking at?” The accused betrayed ignorance on this momentous topic, and—was arrested. Mrs. Ramsay, a neighbor, knows this lady. I very much fear I have spelled her name improperly, in my haste and usual confusion. I feel at perfect liberty with other words, and indeed, with sentences, but with what relates to this “precious piece of porcelain,” who certainly needs a fall, I should like to be careful. Mrs. Norton has been calling and reading out loud to me from the next room. I hope her ladyship will take my default into kindly consideration; so do I hope you will also, my little niece, and not make poor Aunty the excuse and example of a journal of your own some day. I called out to Mrs. Norton just now that I had read a certain article that she was stumbling over, and she answered, “I ain’t a-goin’ to read to you; I was just tellin’ you what lies the Yankees tell.” Late last night—indeed, every night —I have this to undergo. To say that I am uneasy is not to say enough. I wish that Ginnie, at least, was in a quieter home. I must get off to Greenville soon, though I hate to leave the old lady alone. Our friends there are begging for us earnestly. The Ogdens call on us at the door, and whisper us to make haste. They say they do not like to ask us before Mrs. Norton.

When the Yankees came in town Mrs. Brown, Mrs.Dameron and Mrs. Norton came to us and said that we should not live without protection. We therefore broke up housekeeping, intending to go to sister, in Texas, as soon as possible. We sold our furniture (but did not get paid), and went to Mrs. Dameron’s. We were there as the Yankees came up the river, and sat on her upper gallery nearly all night and watched the flames and smoke which rose from the cotton burning on the levee, while the shouts and songs of the multitude sounded in our ears. Her baby, William Brown, was born that night. He is a lovely boy, and has not seen his papa yet, though he is nearly a year old. I should have liked to have stayed with Mrs. Dameron; we had a delightful upstairs room, with dressing room attached there; but Mrs. Norton would have us come here. She came over to Mrs. Dameron’s herself and slept in our room with us until we consented to move. She meant to be kind, I know, but I know also she hates to be alone; that she hates to be silent or to allow others to remain so. She has said that she is fond of us; for this I am grateful, and I do believe she would do us any kindness she could, if it did not injure herself or family. I can not expect more of her. People are accustomed to her saying what she pleases, and even the Federals here know her. Almost the whole town visits her—she is so fond of company. Mary, the servant, was, I think, excited by liquor the other day, and broke out upon her mistress in the most insolent manner. I had often heard them have those quarrels together before, but never knew Mary to go so far. Her mistress told her she might go to the Yankees as soon as she pleased; that she had done for herself with her forever, and when her grandsons returned, she intended to have her well paid for her insolence. Mary has a very high temper, and when she gets angry, she is frightful to see. When she whips little Jake, though she is his own aunt, she does it as if she wanted to kill him. I have often begged for him, and have borne with the little rascal’s insolence, mischief and thieving constantly, rather than tell his mistress or Mary. He took every advantage of Gin’s and my weakness, or leniency, and really seemed to take a pleasure in venting the wickedness upon us which he was obliged to suppress to them. Harriet took our money on the same principle. Ever since this last outbreak of Mary’s I have been afraid she would run away. She has always had control of the supply closet until now, and has had the yard filled with her chickens. Her mistress made her remove them a few days ago. These things have added to her anger and have made returning repentance impossible. Mary has a good heart, though she will not bear a word of reproof. I told her that she did wrong and that she should take into consideration the fact that her mistress is an old woman, and has had much trouble lately. She has been very sullen and gloomy.

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