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.

July 4, 2012

Letters and diary of Laura M. Towne

Written from the Sea islands of South Carolina.

[Diary] July 4.

Up at 4 A.M. We three girls raised our flag. Nelly had had the staff planted the day before. General Saxton and staff breakfasted here. Then we rode to the church — General Saxton in the carriage with us three ladies.

At the Episcopal church Nelly played the organ — “John Brown” and “America.” Then we took our places on the platform under the pines and oaks. First sat General Saxton and the ladies, then the staff and superintendents. A grand, noble flag, supplied by General Saxton, was stretched over the road in full view. The people, marshalled by Mr. Wells on one side, Mr. Gannett on the other, came in procession from below and above the church carrying branches in their hands and singing “Roll, Jordan, Roll.” They formed under the flag and before the platform into a dense mass and sang many of their own songs. At General Saxton’s request, Nelly’s school-children then sang Whittier’s song —

“Now praise and tank de Lord, he come
To set de people free;
Ole massa tink it day ob doom,
But we ob jubilee.”

He made a little speech to the people—manly, straightforward, and encouraging. Mr. Winsor addressed the school-children, and Mr. Philbrick dilated upon work, work, and cotton, cotton. Then there was an unlimited supply of molasses and water, gingered, — with herrings and hard-tack provided by the bounty of Philadelphia, and spread on board tables in the woods. We left them happy as larks, and all the white folks adjourned to the Oaks[1] for a cold lunch — that is, all but General Saxton and staff, who rode to Beaufort. I think the lunch was only tolerably successful, as the melons were green, and the corn-starch soured by the intense heat. General dispersion — the lunch being over. Mr. Sumner, Mr. Brinkerhoff, who made the prayer in the morning, before the addresses, stayed and sang with Nelly on the porch. I came up here to write and Ellen is here with me. She decked the parlors beautifully.

[1] The Government headquarters on St. Helena Island, where Miss Towne was living.

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