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 20, 2012

Letters and diary of Laura M. Towne

Written from the Sea islands of South Carolina.

[Diary] July 20, Sunday.

This morning there was no white preacher. After church Father Tom and his bench of elders examined candidates for baptism and asked Ellen to record their names. We stayed. Each candidate, clothed in the oldest possible clothes and with a handkerchief made into a band and tied around the forehead, stood humbly before the bench. Father Tom, looking like Jupiter himself, grave, powerful, and awfully dignified, put the most posing questions, to which the candidates replied meekly and promptly. He asked the satisfactory candidate at last, “How do you pray?” Then the soft, musical voices made the coaxing, entreating kind of prayer they use so much. A nod dismissed the applicant and another was called up. There were sixty or seventy to examine.

We went afterwards to St. Helenaville and stayed at the Jenkins’ house, which was crowded with superintendents.

Mr. Wells, Ellen, and I took a walk along the pretty street under the pines on the high bluff over the water. The passion flowers trailed all over the ground and the crape myrtle was in full bloom. I gave Ellen and Mr. Wells each a berry which I supposed was a “ground berry.” Mr. W. ate his in silence, but Ellen exclaimed that it was intensely bitter. I was alarmed, for I knew that the berry belonged to a poisonous family. We asked some of the people whether they were good to eat, and they said “No — poison.” I then made the two victims hurry back to Mr. Jenkins’ house and drink some strong coffee, besides giving an antidote from my little doctor’s box. No bad effects.

Young Mr. John Alden lay very ill in the house. After a while the people gathered before the porch and sang and tried to get up a “shout,” but this was not encouraged by the leaders. They sang “Happy Morning,” “Down in the Lonesome Valley,” and others.

We rode home in the twilight escorted by Lieutenant Forbes and some other horsemen. Forbes and others of the cavalry are picketed at Wells’, Edding’s Point.

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