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

by John Beauchamp Jones

            AUGUST 16TH. —The President rides out with some of the female members of his family every afternoon, his aids no longer accompanying him. In this he evinces but little prudence, for it is incredible that he should be ignorant of the fact that he has some few deadly enemies in the city.

            Everywhere the ladies and children may be seen plaiting straw and making bonnets and hats. Mrs. Davis and the ladies of her household are frequently seen sitting on the front porch engaged in this employment. Ostentation cannot be attributed to them, for only a few years ago the Howells were in humble condition and accustomed to work.

            My wife borrowed $200 of Mr. Waterhouse, depositing $20 in gold as security—worth $260—which, with the $300 from Evans on account of rent, have been carefully applied to the purchase of sundry housekeeping articles. After the 1st September we shall cease to pay $40 per month rent on furniture, but that amount for house-rent, so that in the item of rent my expenses will be less than they were the preceding year. So far, with the exception of crockery-ware and chairs, the purchases (at auction) have been at low prices, and we have been fortunate in the time selected to provide indispensable articles.

            I often wonder if, in the first struggle for independence, there was as much suffering and despondency among certain classes of the people as we now behold. Our rich men are the first to grow weary of the contest. Yesterday a letter was received by the Secretary of War from a Mr. Reanes, Jackson, Mississippi, advising the government to lose no time in making the best terms possible with the United States authorities, else all would be lost. He says but a short time ago he was worth $1,250,000, and now nothing is left him but a shelter, and that would have been destroyed if he had not made a pledge to remain. He says he is an old man, and was a zealous secessionist, and even now would give his life for the independence of his country. But that is impracticable—numbers must prevail—and he would preserve his wife and children from the horrors threatened, and inevitable if the war be prolonged. He says the soldiers that were under Pemberton and Lovell will never serve under them again, for they denounce them as traitors and tyrants, while, as they allege, they were well treated by the enemy when they fell into their hands.

            Yet it seems to me that, like the Israelites that passed through the Red Sea, and Shadrach and his brethren who escaped unscorched from the fiery furnance, my family have been miraculously sustained. We have purchased no clothing for nearly three years, and had no superabundance to begin with, but still we have decent clothes, as if time made no appreciable change in them. I wear a hat bought four years ago, and shoes that cost me (government price then) $7.50 more than a year ago, and I suppose they would sell now for $10; new ones are bringing $50.

            My tomatoes are maturing slowly, but there will be abundance, saving me $10 per week for ten weeks. My lima beans are very full, and some of them will be fit to pull in a few days. My potatoes are as green as grass, and I fear will produce nothing but vines; but I shall have cabbages and parsnips, and red peppers. No doubt the little garden, 25 by 50, will be worth $150 to me. Thank Providence, we still have health!

            But the scarcity—or rather high prices, for there is really no scarcity of anything but meat—is felt by the cats, rats, etc., as well as by the people. I have not seen a rat or mouse for months, and lean cats are wandering past every day in quest of new homes.

            What shall we do for sugar, now selling at $2 per pound? When the little supply this side of the Mississippi is still more reduced it will probably be $5! It has been more than a year since we had coffee or tea. Was it not thus in the trying times of the Revolution? If so, why can we not bear privation as well as our forefathers did? We must!

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