Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Letters and diary of Laura M. Towne.

Letters and diary of Laura M. Towne.

January 1, 2013

Letters and diary of Laura M. Towne

[Diary] January 1, 1863.

We rejoiced at midnight with great pride and joy to think that our country is at last free.

We were late in the morning, and when we reached the ferry saw the Flora depart without us. Sergeant Arthur took us across in his boat, and we waited at the General’s house until the Flora’s second trip. It was a thousand pities, for when we reached Camp Saxton at Smith’s plantation,[1] we arrived through the dense crowd at the foot of the platform only in time to see Colonel Higginson[2] standing between his two color-bearers, Robert Sutton and Prince Rivers, looking small — tall and large man as he is — compared with them; but we missed Colonel Higginson’s speech, which was stirring and eloquent.

In one of the pauses of the exercises, just after the regiment received its colors, I believe, the soldiers and people spontaneously broke out with “My Country, ‘t is of thee,” and Colonel Higginson made happy use of this incident. Mrs. Gage and others had spoken; Mr. Zachos’ poem had been read, Mr. Judd’s also.

We sang the John Brown song with the people, were then asked up to the platform with the other ladies, and all was over. There was a grand barbecue, and we went to see the oxen, each standing roasted whole in its pit. As we went to reembark, Captain Saxton made his horse rear and bow to the ladies several times. At last he grew restive and would have thrown Captain S. if Mr. Fairfield had not sprung to the rescue.

At the General’s again we dined, I sitting at his right hand, he taking me in to dinner. The staff, Mrs. Gage, Miss Thompson, and our party were the guests. Dinner over, we sat up in the General’s parlor and talked, I with Mrs. Gage, the General and Captains amusing themselves decking out Nelly and Tilly with scarfs and swords. I observed that the General gave his yellow scarf to Tilly, his red one to Nelly, thus letting Miss Thompson rank Nelly. They retained these scarfs all the evening.

I wore my blue silk dress and it looked well, but not so pretty as Miss Louise Kellogg’s, who came with other guests to the dance. This was opened by the General and myself in a cotillion — neither of us dancing the Lancers. I found I had not forgotten, and I enjoyed it exceedingly.

[1] On Port Royal Island.

[2] Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

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