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

April 3rd, 1866.—As soon as they could pull themselves together after the war, the women of the South organized The Southern Woman’s Memorial Association. We all belong to it and a call has been made on the members to get to work and prepare for a fair, to be held in Tallahassee. This Fair is to raise money to erect a monument to our heroes. The plan is for each section of the State to have in readiness the best of the productions of that section, and in December we will have the Fair and the call is for as many as possible to be present.

It was made so far ahead that the housekeepers and those who embroider might have time enough to prepare their wares. Only in this way can we erect a monument. Our people are ruined by the war; few have enough left to provide for daily needs. Some wealthy ones still have a little left but I fear they, too, will come to want, as they do not realize the conditions which confront us. It is so natural to spend when you can get the money, with no thought for the future. Anyway, we must have that monument.

March 14th, 1866.—Riding horse-back with My Soldier this afternoon I told him the incident at Goodwood and how gallantly Mr. Coolidge came to the rescue. I told him I had heard Mr. Coolidge was related to him and if that was so I wanted to know why he did not make friends with him? He looked very serious and I was beginning to fear I had hurt him in some unknown way.

At last he spoke, “I have never mentioned my cousin. Sidney Coolidge to you; he came to Florida to visit our family prior to the war. I, a school boy, just at the age to give the warmest admiration to a man of charm and ability such as he was. I loved my cousin Sidney and looked forward to the visit, which he had promised us at some future time.

“The war came on and during the whole four years of war, I was in the thickest of the fighting. After Gettysburg I was promoted and assigned to the Army of the West. One day I was sent to carry a dispatch for my general. Crossing the field of Chickamauga, I was hit by a. bullet; (the only time in all the years) it ploughed its way through hat and hair scorching as it went. I was stunned but soon recovered, delivered the dispatch and turned to go. An officer who knew me, laid his hand on my arm and said:

” ‘Your cousin, Colonel Coolidge, lies dead in that tent, don’t you want to go and look at him?’

“I was still faint from the shock of the bullet and I turned quickly away that he might not see my horror and distress. I did not see him, I could not bear it, but always, I have thanked a kind Providence that on this day I had not fired a single shot but had been on courier duty all day.

“Now, this young lieutenant you like so much, is probably a relative, indeed I am sure he is, but this is the way I feel about it; if the Confederates had been the victorious army and I had been occupying the conquered country, if, in fact, our positions could be reversed, I should look him up, claim the tie of blood and proffer the hand of friendship. As things stand, he is the conqueror, I am the conquered and if any advances are made they must come from him.”

“I am sorry,” I said when he closed. “Even if he does wear the blue, he is a kinsman worth claiming and I am sure you two would be congenial.” With that the subject was dropped, never to be resumed. He is a man of deep feeling, quiet and reticent, sincere and truthful but too proud to expose himself to a possible slight. The Southern Confederacy had no braver soldier than he. My brave Soldier in Gray!

March 13th, 1866.—We had some errands in town this morning, so we stopped on the way home. Miss Flint told me Mr. Coolidge is related to the Eppes family here in Tallahassee. I shall find out all about that when I see My Soldier again.

I got home a little before sun-set and, in a few minutes, Charley and Lodie Austin and Cousin John Nash came to spend the evening. Mother just loves to have the Confederate Soldiers to a meal, she gets the very best of everything to put before them and they appreciate it; also they appreciate her and her music. I would like to be as charming as she is, and when I said this to Father he said, “You will never be, and this is why, you speak out too plainly. The world has a grudge against plain-speakers.”

I got “a slam” from Sister Mag tonight, too. She says I am “a coquette” but that is not true. The boys like me, but I like them, too, and they like me because they feel safe in my company. I talk about the things I think will interest them, I am a good listener—I do not encourage love-making. I do not allow caresses nor do I accept presents from young men. Even if I am young I have learned one piece of wisdom, “It is the unattainable that men sigh for.”

No, most assuredly, I am not a coquette and the only time I ever approached it was Aunt Sue’s fault and not mine; it was three years ago, I was nothing but a child, a brave Confederate captain “came a-wooing,” he was highly educated, wealthy and blue-blooded. He bore a character above reproach and I found him pleasant company. One night he persuaded me to let him put upon my finger a ring, which had been the betrothal ring for four generations. I wore that ring till morning; then I wrote a note and sent Jordan to take it back to him. I was sorry but I simply could not stand the feeling of the ring and the thought of what it meant. That was not flirting; it was only putting things right.

I am wearing another ring now and I shall never send this one back. This is a plain gold ring while the other blazed with diamonds but the owner of the plain little ring is My Soldier in Gray, and no words can tell what he means to me.

March 12th, 1866.—Last night Aunt Sue asked me to dress early and take charge of her little boys until the company arrived. She likes them to appear in the parlor and it is an easy matter to amuse them and keep them “spick and span.” It was cold and windy last night and I proposed to them to sit beside the fire and listen to some fairy tales. This they were ready to do and we were sitting there, deep in the thrilling story of “Beauty and the Beast,” when Jack opened the door and announced the first arrivals.

In came Mr. Bumford, Mr. Wessels and Mr. Coolidge, I do not know if they came together but there they were. I looked up and spoke and the children clamored for the rest of the story.

It was soon finished and then Mr. Wessels stood before me and said, “I have something here Miss Bradford, which may be of interest to you.”

As he spoke he laid across my lap a Harper’s Weekly, opened to its fullest extent. I am a trifle near-sighted and I did not at first take it in, but presently I saw what it was. A caricature of our beloved President Jefferson Davis, dressed in woman’s clothes, a large hoop-skirt had tripped him up and a huge, booted leg was showing through the hoops. The face was unmistakable and I gazed as if fascinated.

It was hard to realize that such an insult should be offered to me. I cannot speak when I am angry. I can only cry and there I sat, the tears rolling down my face. I do not believe either of the others had an idea of what he was doing, for Mr. Coolidge came and looked over my shoulder. Seizing the paper, he crushed it in his hands and throwing it in the fire, he grasped the poker and pushed it down until only ashes remained; then turning to the perpetrator of this sorry joke, he exclaimed, “Wessels, you are no gentleman.”

Little Diary, you should have seen him. He was splendid. I looked to see Mr. Wessels resent it, but he only laughed and just then other guests came and the episode was ended; but. I shall always feel grateful to my champion and never will he rank with “the Yankees” in my mind.

It was a gay scene; the bright dresses of the ladies, the brilliant uniforms of the officers, the plentiful sprinkling of civilians, the long mirrors reflecting it all, but I did not enjoy one minute of the evening. I did not enjoy it although My Soldier in Gray was there and usually that insures a happy evening for me. I could not sleep for hours; the insult cut deep.

March 11th, 1866.—Again I am at Goodwood. Uncle Arvah is having a card party and I was sent for; you see, he taught me to play whist and he says he is proud of his pupil. I have not played at a regular card party before but often Judge Love comes to Goodwood and we play, Aunt Sue and the Judge against Uncle Arvah and myself.

This, however, is a large party. General and Mrs. Foster are coming and many others; we have put three tables in the library and in the double parlors several more are placed. We have dressed the whole of the first floor, and the dining room is a dream. The chandelier is an immense shell of bronze, in it are water-lilies of mother-of-pearl. Six arms of bronze curve upward from this shell with its fluted edges, lighting the room beautifully and bringing out the pearly, pink tints of the lilies. The chandelier is supported by a figure of Neptune holding his tripod. It is the handsomest I ever saw and Mr. Croom, the former owner, brought it from Italy. He also brought over an artist from Rome who frescoed the ceilings of this lovely home. The mantel-pieces are of Italian marble, and all this is not in the downstairs rooms, for show, but each room is fitted up in the same way. Uncle Arvah and Aunt Sue are the very ones to have this spacious mansion for they love to entertain and indulge in a princely hospitality, which all enjoy.

March 5th, 1866.—Aunt Sue had the Italian harpers and the little grandchild to play tonight and I am here at Goodwood. These old, white-haired men are totally blind and the grandchild leads them around, but they make the sweetest music on their harps and the boy plays the violin. I heard them last week at the capitol but we cannot hear good music too often.

MY SOLDIER IN GRAY

So young and so handsome,

So brave and so neat,

From the crown of his head

To the soles of his feet.

He’s the light of my eyes,

As he marches away

To a place at the FRONT

With his comrades in gray.

Four years he has battled

For his Country’s rights,

Yet the bullets have spared him In the fiercest of fights.

Some day he’ll come home, I hope and I pray,

For ’tis Heaven on earth,

With My Soldier in Gray.

March 1st, 1866.—Little Diary, I have tried hard to tell you my secret but there are some things too sacred to write about. My Soldier in Gray has held by promise for many months and, before the year is out, we expect to be married. Father and Mother are willing, for they, too, like My Soldier in Gray but they insisted he should promise them never to take me away. I am the last one left at home and they cannot give me up. I love them so well and I am glad they want me to live with them always.

When the war was over, so many soldiers did not have anything to do, some even did not have a home to go to, but my soldier went immediately to work. His father has a large plantation and the overseer left as soon as the South surrendered; this Lake Lafayette plantation is five miles from Tallahassee, where the Eppes family live and his father is an old man and feeble; so he took right hold. He lives on the plantation and is managing splendidly, they say. I often hear his praises and I feel a glow of pride; but not even to you little friend, can I tell all My Soldier in Gray means to me. We met just after the Battle of Gettysburg and he has loved me ever since. Let me fasten this page down securely that none may see.

February 18th, 1866.—Home again and I have talked myself hoarse telling the events of the three weeks I have been away. I am glad to get back. All say they have missed me, which is pleasant to hear. Eddie does not like to hear of the Union officers, he resents every mention of them. I told him of the Confederate uniform I made for Arvah; the brass buttons, the gold lace, for it was a captain’s uniform.

Arvah was so proud of it until the Yankees, who came to the house, made fun of him, calling him “Johnnie Reb.” He cried then and said, “Me don’t want to be a Donnie Web.”

Mrs. Reed told him to ask his mother for a piece of blue broadcloth and she would Make him a Yankee uniform. She is a neat hand at work and by night the little suit was finished and Arvah was the centre of an admiring group. I took no notice of him but the little fellow is very fond of me and when he felt tired he tried to crawl up in my lap. I did not encourage this and he said, “Me wants to love ‘ou.”

“No,” I said. “I can’t love a Yankee.”

He burst into tears and could not be quieted.

“Take off dis ‘Ankee.” he cried, “I’se doin’ to be a Donnie Web.”

After that Mrs. Reed and I were rivals where Arvah was concerned. I took to slipping a piece of money in his hand when it was time to dress for the evening and then, in spite of Mrs. Reed’s pleading, he would wear the suit of gray; but just let me forget to have the bit of silver on time and Arvah appears in the parlor, a tiny figure in blue, where he is surrounded by his brother officers and, listens with willing ears to the many complimentary speeches made for his benefit.

Eddie thinks this is terrible. “I wouldn’t be a turncoat,” says this staunch young Southerner.

February 17th, 1866.—The house party is a thing of the past and will be long remembered. The Sprague girls, Maggie and Mary, (Tudie seems to be her name to her intimates), are such nice, pleasant young ladies. When I had known them a few days I said I would not have imagined they were from the North. They laughed and said they had been almost raised in the South. I like them very much.

Mrs. Reed, to quote from my black mammy, “Ain’t my sort,” and I have never been thrown with one of her kind before. Mrs. Miller is a sweet old lady, a South Carolinian by birth, who married a Northern man. Her invalid son, Lieutenant Charles Miller, excited my pity to such an extent that I have tried to forget his blue uniform and remember only that he suffers. I think the almost constant contact with the sick and wounded soldiers in our own army has automatically made me tender of those who are ill. His mother watches over him day and night. Aunt Sue is just as good to them both as if they were kinsfolk and, though Uncle Arvah is such a busy man, he does all he can to lighten her burden. She was very glad to have a little help in filling in his lonely hours.

I look at it in this way; I am trying to be of some assistance to dear aunt Sue and if she wants me to read to and talk to, this poor, sick boy, it is my duty to do it. So, for a while, each morning, after his breakfast tray has been brought down stairs, I relieve his mother and, while I read some entertaining book, or glean the freshest news from the papers, she walks out among the flowers, or chats with the other guests.

Our own boys tease me about my “sick Yankee,” but I think it is right or I would not do it. He, poor fellow, is grateful; I told him doctors did not know everything, even the wisest of them. I told him I was supposed to have consumption, of which Drs. Clark and Geddings were quite positive, but I would not listen to them. My doctor Brother did not agree with them and he says, “help yourself to get well; do not think of the disease but fill your mind with bright thoughts and, if possible find something for your hands to do; live in the open and hope, Hope, HOPE.”

He was much interested in this and, the next day, instead of lying on the couch in his mother’s room, as he had done, he came down stairs, with Frank and Jack assisting him, and sat in the large cushioned rocker in the hall.

The young people in the house came about his chair and Aunt Sue said he was holding a reception. He enjoyed it until he got tired, and his mother was delighted that he had made the effort. Poor boy! He has hemorrhages but I used to have them, too, and I have quite made up my mind to live to be a hundred; if I can. [click to continue…]

January 29th, 1866.—Sister Mag and her family are living with us now, Brother Amos has broken up his plantation in Georgia. He can do nothing there without labor and all the negroes have left that section of country.

We have a pretty good cook and last night Brother Amos brought in a servant he had hired. It seems that some of the colored troops have been disbanded and this one was the drum major (whatever that may be). He is very small, black and wiry and active as a cat. He says he belonged to a maiden lady in Virginia and she trained him for dining room work, so we have put him at the same thing and so far he is acquitting himself very well. Josie and I clean up the house and it is a little easier every day. It is funny to ask a little darky in blue uniform to go to the kitchen for hot biscuits.