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 30, 2013

The Journal of Julia LeGrand

Monday, 30th [March]. Late last night I wrote a note to Captain Brittain for Mrs. Norton, asking him to go with us tomorrow to court. I scarcely had a wink of sleep, and felt wretchedly in more ways than one this morning. Mrs. Norton was stirring before day. I might have slept then if I could have been quiet. Captain Brittain came very early, saying that we need not go down to the court so soon. Mrs. Norton said she had been told by the man who gave her the warrant to come at 7 o ‘clock A. M. The policeman then came to tell Mrs. Norton to appear before the Federal Court at 10 o’clock, where she is to be confronted with Mary. General Shepley had Mary and the children turned out of jail almost as soon as placed there, although put in by virtue of a search warrant. General Shepley is a deceitful, bad man, not so bold as Butler, but just as coarse and brutal. I feel very sorry for Mrs. Norton; she should have let this matter alone, but I will stand by her. I have the greatest repugnance to going to a court of any kind. She ought not to take me—I would not go for a thousand negroes of my own. I feel nervous, sick and wretched. I wish Mr. Randolph were not in Greenville, so that he could help us. I hate notoriety—all kinds of it, Federal notoriety the worst. This scurrilous Era may give a line to me tomorrow. It gave the other day a most disgusting article about a woman, and indeed, is constantly filled with insolence to our sex. They hate women here much more than men. The Era says, “The women of New Orleans screw up their thin, pale lips when they [the Federals] pass them, turn up their not very handsome noses and flash their handsome eyes—yes, they have handsome eyes, which they have inherited from negro ancestors.” One of the officers told Supt. McClean, a Confederate prisoner, that he might wear his uniform, but that the women of New Orleans were such d___d fools, that the mere sight of it might create an excitement. Lieutenant Andrews was very angry the other day because so many ladies rushed to see the captured Signal Corps and took them little comforts. No one goes now unless they can be of some real service. I have never been near them.

I have returned all safe, but tired and disgusted. This is my first visit to Canal Street for a long time. I hate the “Squares and Streets” as much as did ever the madman in “Maud,” especially Canal Street. At all times its show of hard business faces, mingled with the perplexed, wearied and sad ones, and its display of glittering fashionables trailing along, tired and depressed me. I used always to say that I returned from a shopping tour on Canal Street as wearied as if I had journeyed to the poles. Now I am sad, despairing, weary, angry all at once. It makes me furious to meet the insolent faces of the Massachusetts mob which has been sent to rule over us— despairing to think that they dare and are allowed to represent a great Republic; that they are a part of humanity, and that so much of my trust in it has been overthrown by them. It has been a cold, rainy day—such a one as always lays Mrs. Norton up sick. She would take no advice; she would go; we tried to persuade her that she could do nothing to recover Jake. She had no idea, she says, that she could recover Mary, but the boy she stole. She could not bear to let her servants triumph over her, at least without making an effort to prevent them.

Before we left the house Ginnie became so uneasy about my being made a witness in Peabody’s court, that she obtained a promise from her that she would not go. So, according to previous agreement with Captain Brittain, she went to the Custom House, expecting to meet him. Owing to some misunderstanding, we did not find him. We saw Captain Miller’s carriage at the front and were on the pavement when the file of soldiers went up the steps. Captain Miller, the Mayor, organizes the court each day, and these soldiers, a hateful-looking set, attend on it. I was dreadfully afraid Mrs. Norton would go up; she was anxious, and as disagreeable as it would have been, I would have gone with her had I had the most distant idea that she would have escaped insult, and more than all, Era notoriety—worse than prison, worse than battle fire and pestilence, worse than Butler, do I dread the Era—the low, vulgar tongue of the Federal Government in this city! We paced up and down before that desolate-looking Custom House, listening to the drumbeats of the soldiers drilling upon the river bank; also to some few cannon. Dirty-looking soldiers guarded the different entrances, and vile-appearing negroes, in filthy blue clothes, looked from the windows. I felt quite as desolate as everything looked. How my heart ached for a brother’s strong arm on which to lean, or for that dear one, now lost to me forever. Well, we did not go up into the court-room. I escaped that shadow of infamy. After traipseing up and down for a full hour, and submitting to the gaze for that length of time of any infamous creature that chose to look at us, we walked up to the City Hall. The creature at the door of the Mayor’s parlor would not let us in; he knew Mrs. Norton; so we stood outside with the negroes and other applicants until we were ready to drop. After awhile a negro vacated a chair and I boldly seized it for Mrs. Norton. She was cold and tired and looked so woe-begone that I pitied her, though I could not understand why she should wish to submit herself to all this degradation. Seeing the policeman whom she had engaged to put Mary in jail come out of the Mayor’s parlor, she went into the hall to speak to him, and he told her that Mary was then in the Mayor’s parlor and that he had been telegraphed for. What had taken place he could not tell her there, but would come to see her and tell.

We went into the Mayor’s presence and his gentlemanship, the Mayor, came up to us instantly, with a face expressive of insolence and anger. I had never seen him before, but from Mrs. Norton’s account of him, had at least supposed him to be good-natured. She had been in the habit of saying what she pleased to him. “Mrs. Norton,” said he, “I have a very serious charge against you.” “What have I done !” said she, terrified at his manner. “Bribed a policeman,” he returned, with the greatest air of offended virtue. Mrs. Norton had unfortunately given the policeman $10 that very morning. She had pressed it upon him from a true feeling of gratitude, because he had seemed to take such an interest in her affairs, and had taken so much extra trouble for her and had left her without telling her where she could find him again and without asking any payment. She had called him back after he had gone out of the gate, and unfortunately gave him the $10. “Bribing a policeman!” we both cried in a breath; for the matter had never struck us in that light. “Yes,” returned he, “bribing a policeman.” “I never thought of such a thing,” said Mrs. Norton, and indeed, she had not. “Oh, don’t deny it,” said Captain Miller, with the most insufferable appearance; “I have the very $10 note here now to prove it on you.” “Do not bring it,” said Mrs. Norton, “I gave it to him.” “There must be some difference between a bribe and a reward,” said I, angrily; “this was a reward.” “He understood from the first he would be rewarded,” he returned insolently, “and there has been any quantity of this sort of thing, and it must be stopped. Now, see here, Mrs. Norton,” he continued, “I’ll make a bargain with you—if you don’t meddle with that woman, Mary, of yours, I’ll drop this matter, but so sure as you do, I’ll have you before the Provost Court for having bribed a policeman.” All this was said while he shook his hand almost in Mrs. Norton’s face. He was a young man, and I considered it mean and vulgar to speak in this way to an old feeble woman, especially, too, as he lived in her daughter’s house free of rent—after having driven her daughter out of it and made use of every article of provisions or clothing left behind, besides keeping all the servants and carriages. She had been prejudged; her side of the tale was not even heard —all of her servants were in Federal employ, and this last woman had not only stolen her little house boy, but other things. I was indignant, and but for the dread of that disgusting Era, would have spoken freely enough. “In the first place,” he went on, “you imposed upon the man who gave you the search warrant; if he had known that you had not taken the oath, he would not have given it to you.” “Is there no justice?” I cried out angrily; “justice is but justice at all times.” “Yes,” said he, “justice is justice, but only for some people; justice is for the loyal; search warrants are for the disloyal.” Then turning to Mrs. Norton, “Do you see this ten dollars? I intend to give it to your woman, Mary.”

With that we both rose from our seats and Captain Miller took a theatrical position in the middle of the room. Said Mrs. Norton as she swept by: “I’ll not take that oath—I’ll not swear to a lie.” “Then,” said he with much emphasis and gesture, “I swear by my sacred word and honor, you’ll never have your servant.” “There is no honor in your courts,” said I, stalking out as boldly as I could, all the time fearing that he would grab me by the arm; he was quite angry enough to have done it. When I got out I wished that I had told him that if he considered that a bribe, and if bribing was such an offence against the government he served, he had no right to drop the matter. He had bribed Mrs. Norton that she should not disturb Mary. Ginnie says I should have told him that I had two brothers serving in the army in Texas who would be happy to meet him some day. Every one had something to suggest, and of course every one could have arranged the interview in better style than we did. I was quite satisfied with my display of courage, for, from the manner in which Captain Chivalry turned toward me, I could judge that I had shown him quite a defiant face, as well as having put my few remarks in rather a high key. I was indeed angry; so angry that I almost forgot the Era. A little more and Mrs. Norton and myself would have graced the annals of a police court, and above all, an abolition Federal court. The gallant Miller had no idea of my nerve. Mrs. Norton has never been so crushed and cowed in her life. To my astonishment she was silent when threatened; I, whom she thinks lacking in spirit, had to speak up in her defence. She was white and trembling when we came out, and was very unwell all day afterward. I was very sorry for her. She is convinced now that it is of no use to try and get justice from the Federals, and she may be induced to keep away from them now.

We paid Mrs. and Miss Callender a visit. Miss Betty looks like death—she is dying with consumption—her old mother will then be childless. I felt sorry to see her, knowing what must soon happen. I go out so seldom that when I came in Miss Betty clapped her hands and said it would certainly hail. I laughed and returned that “It was quite cold enough.” When we reached home we had our experience to give to every one. We fought our battles over again—at least, I did, for Mrs. Norton invariably turns to me and says, “You tell, for I can’t; I cannot forget that man’s looks.”

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