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

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A Confederate Girl’s Diary

November 12, 2012

A Confederate Girl's Diary by Sarah Morgan Dawson

November 12th, Wednesday.

Once more a cripple and consigned to my bed, for how long, Heaven only knows. This is written while in a horizontal position, reposing on my right arm, which is almost numb from having supported me for some sixteen hours without turning over. Let me see if I can remember how it happened.

Last evening we started out to see Gibbes, just Miriam and Anna in one buggy, and Mrs. Badger and I in the other. Gibbes proper, that is, the Captain, and the General both approved, but neither could accompany us. It is useless to say how much I objected to going without a gentleman. Indeed, when we reached the road which formed the fourth side of the square formed by Colonel Breaux’s, Captain Bradford’s, and Captain Fenner’s camps, I thought I should die of terror on finding myself in such a crowd of soldiers on parade. My thick veil alone consoled me, but I made a vow that I would not go through it again, not if I never saw Gibbes, Jr., again on earth.

His camp lay far off from the road, so that we had to drive out to it between the other two, and asked a soldier to tell him that we were there. Presently he came up, looking so pleased that I was almost glad that we had come; and then Captain Fenner appeared, looking charmed, and Lieutenant Harris, who looked more alarmed and timid than I. Captain Fenner exerted himself to entertain us, and seeing how frightened I was, assured me that it was an everyday occurrence for young ladies to visit them in parties without gentlemen, and that it was done all through the Confederacy; which, however, did not comfort me for the hundreds of eyes that were looking at us as our small party stood out in front of the encampment around a cannon. I think he can throw more expression into his eyes than any one I ever saw. Miriam suggested sending Gibbes to the Provost to get our pass in order to avoid the crowd that might be there. Eager to leave the present one for a more retired spot, I exclaimed, “Oh, no! let us go ourselves! We can’t get in a worse crowd!” I meant a greater; but Captain Fenner looked so comically at me that I could scarcely laugh out an apology, while he laughed so that I am sure he did not listen to me. What a comical mouth! I liked him very much, this time. He promised to come out to-day or to-morrow, and have a game of “Puss wants a corner” in the sugar-house. But now I can’t join in, though it was to me the promise was made.

But to the catastrophe at once.

As we left, we insisted on taking Gibbes to get our pass, and made him get into Miriam’s buggy, where there was space for him to kneel and drive. I was to carry out my promise to Mr. Enders. We had to pass just by the camp of the First Alabama, Colonel Steadman’s, where the whole regiment was on parade. We had not gone thirty yards beyond them when a gun was discharged. The horse instantly ran off. I don’t believe there could be two cooler individuals than Mrs. Badger and I were. I had every confidence in her being able to hold him so long as the bridle lasted. I had heard that there was more danger in jumping at such moments than in remaining quiet, so I sat still. There was nothing to hold to, as it was a no-top, or what I call a “low-neck,” buggy; so my hands rested quietly in my lap. Presently I saw the left rein snap close to the horse’s mouth. I knew all was over then, but did not utter a word. Death seemed inevitable, and I thought it was as well to take it coolly. The horse turned abruptly; I felt that something impelled me out, followed the impulse, saw Mrs. Badger’s white cape fluttering above me, received a blow on the extremity of my spine that I thought would kill me before I reached the ground, landing, however, on my left hip, and quietly reclining on my left elbow, with my face to an upset buggy whose wheels spun around in empty air. I heard a rush as of horses; I saw men galloping up; I would have given worlds to spring to my feet, or even to see if they were exposed; but found I could not move. I had no more power over my limbs than if they were iron; only the intense pain told me I was still alive. I was perfectly conscious, but unable to move. My only wonder was why Miriam, who was in front, did not come to me.

My arm was giving away. Dimly, as through a haze, or dream, I saw a soldier bending over me, trying to raise me. The horse he had sprung from rushed up to his master, and reared up over me. I saw the iron hoofs shining above my body; death was certain this time, but I could not move. He raised his arm and struck him, and obedient to the blow the animal turned aside and let his feet fall without crushing me. Mrs. Carter, when she heard it described, offered a fabulous sum for a correct drawing of that most interesting tableau, the gallant Alabamian supporting a helpless form on one arm, while he reined in a fiery charger with the other. I was not aware of the romance; I was conscious only of the unpleasant situation.

Dozens crowded around, and if I had been a girl for display, here was an opportunity, for thirty pair of soldier arms were stretched out to hold me. “No! Gibbes! Gibbes!” I whispered, and had the satisfaction of being transferred from a stranger’s to my cousin’s arms. Gibbes trembled more than I, but with both arms clasped around me, held me up. But for that I would have returned to my original horizontal position. “Send for the doctor!” cried one. “A surgeon, quick!” cried another. “Tell them no!” I motioned. I was conscious of a clatter of hoofs and cloud of dust. One performed a feat never heard of before. He brought a glass of water at full gallop which I instantly drained by way of acknowledgment. I think I felt the unpleasant situation more than the pain. Not being accustomed to being the centre of attraction, I was by no means pleased with the novel experience. Miriam held my hand, and questioned me with a voice tremulous with fear and laughter. Anna convulsively sobbed or giggled some question. I felt the ridiculous position as much as they. Laughing was agony, but I had to do it to give them an excuse, which they readily seized to give vent to their feelings, and encouraged by seeing it, several gold-band officers joined in, constantly endeavoring to apologize or check themselves with a “Really, Miss, it may seem unfeeling, but it is impossible” — the rest was lost in a gasp, and a wrestle between politeness and the desire to laugh.

I don’t know what I was thinking of, but I certainly paid very little attention to what was going on. I only wanted to get home, away from all those eyes; and my most earnest wish made me forget them. The first remark I heard was my young Alabamian crying, “It is the most beautiful somerset I ever saw! Indeed, it could not be more gracefully done! Your feet did not show!” Naïf, but it was just what I wanted to know, and dared not ask. Some one ran up, and asked who was hurt, and I heard another reply, “I am afraid the young lady is seriously injured, only she won’t acknowledge it. It is worth while looking at her. She is the coolest, most dignified girl you ever saw”; and another was added to the already too numerous audience. Poor Mrs. Badger, having suffered only from torn clothing, received very little sympathy, while I got more than my share. I really believe that the blow I received was from her two hundred and forty pound body, though the Alabamian declares he saw the overturning buggy strike me as I fell.

To her and others I am indebted for the repetition of many a remark that escaped me. One bold soldier boy exclaimed, “Madame, we are all warriors, but we can’t equal that! It is braver than any man!” I had to laugh occasionally to keep my spirits up, but Miriam ordered me to quit, saying that I would go off in hysterics. I had previously repeatedly declared to the Doctor that I was not hurt, and seeing him idle, and hearing Miriam’s remark, the Alabamian — I am told — cried, “O Doctor! Doctor! can’t you do something? Is she going to have hysterics?” “Really,” said the Doctor, “the young lady objects to being examined; but as far as I can judge, she has no limbs broken.” Everybody ordered me to confess at once my injury; but how was I to inform a whole crowd that I had probably broken the tip of my backbone, and could not possibly sit down? So I adhered to my first affirmation, and made no objection when they piled the cushions up and made Gibbes put me down; for I knew he must be tired.

I am told I remained there an hour. I know they talked to me, and that I answered; but have not an idea of the subject. A gentleman brought a buggy, and offered to drive me home; but a Captain Lenair insisted on running after the ambulance. Arrived there, Mr. Enders says he rushed in, crying, “For God’s sake, General Beale, lend me the ambulance! There is a dreadful accident, and I am afraid the young lady will die!” Coming back he exclaimed, “By Jove! boys, if you want to see a sight, run down and see her hair! The prettiest auburn (?) you ever looked at, and sweeps the ground! I would n’t mind such a fall if I had such hair to show. Come look at it, do!” Mr. Enders says he was sure that it was I, as soon as hair was mentioned, and started out as soon as he had finished a duty he had to perform. My garter, a purple silk ribbon, lay in the centre of the ring. By the respectful silence observed, I saw they recognized its use, so, unwilling to leave such a relic behind, I asked aloud for my “ribbon,” whereupon Anna says the officers pinched each other and smiled. Up came the ambulance, and I was in imminent danger of being carried to it, when with a desperate effort I regained my feet with Gibbes’s help, and reached it without other assistance. Beyond, I could do no more.

Captain Lenair got inside, and several others lifted me up to him, and I sank motionless on the floor. All bade me good-bye, and my little Alabamian assured me that he was proud of having been the first to assist me. President Miller whispered to Mrs. Badger for permission to accompany us, which she readily granted, and raising me on the seat, he insisted on putting his arm around me to hold me up. It was useless to decline. “Now, Miss Morgan, I assure you I am an old married man! I know you are suffering! Let me have my way!” and the kind old gentleman held me so comfortably, and broke the force of so many jolts, that I was forced to submit and acknowledge that had it not been for him I could not have endured the rough road. At the gate that leads to General Beale’s headquarters, I saw half a dozen figures standing. One was Frank Enders, who hailed the driver. “Hush!” said one I recognized as Captain Lenair. “The young lady is in there, and the Provost, too!” “I don’t care if it is Jeff Davis, I’ll find out if she is hurt!” he answered. Miriam and Anna recognized him, as they followed behind us, and called to him. Without more ado, he jumped into their buggy, finding them alone, and drove them home. He asked me something as he passed, but I could not answer.

The road was dreadful. Once the driver mistook it and drove us within two steps of an embankment six feet high, but discovered the mistake before the horses went over.

What I most dreaded was explanations when we should arrive. Miriam stepped out an instant before, and I heard her telling the accident. Then everybody, big and little, white and black, gathered around the ambulance. The Provost thought himself privileged to carry me, Gibbes insisted on trying it with his one arm, when the General picked me up and landed me on the gallery. He wanted me to lie down in old Mrs. Carter’s room, but confident that once there I could not get up, and feeling that perhaps the gentlemen would take advantage of its being on the ground floor to suggest calling on me, I struggled upstairs with Helen’s assistance. A dozen hands undressed me, and laid me on my face in bed, which position I have occupied up to the present, 3 p.m. . . . Unable to turn, all night I lay awake, lying on my face, the least comfortable of positions; but though the slightest motion tortured me, I had to laugh as we talked it over.

Of course, this has been written in scratches, and in my same position, which will account for many blots. This morning I was interrupted by mother’s unexpected arrival, she having come with Dellie and Morgan to spend the day. Of course, she is horrified at the accident of that “unfortunate Sarah”!

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