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

January 30, 2013

A Confederate Girl's Diary by Sarah Morgan Dawson

Friday, January 30th.

A whole week has passed since I opened this book, a week certainly not spent in idleness, if not a very interesting one. For I have kept my room almost all the time, leaving Miriam and Anna to entertain their guests alone. Even when Mr. Halsey called on Sunday, I declined going down. Why, I wonder? I felt better than usual, was in a splendid humor for talking, yet — my excuses took my place, and I lay quietly in bed, dreaming by the firelight, and singing hymns to myself. Once in a while the thought would occur to me, “Why don’t I go down?” But it was always answered with a wry face, and the hymn went on. Yet I knew he had come expecting to see me.

On the table near me stood a bunch of snowdrops that Miriam had culled for her beloved Captain Bradford. An idea struck me so suddenly that my voice died instantly. The spirit of mischief had taken possession of me. Laughing to myself, I caught them up, drew three long bright hairs from my head — they looked right gold-y in the firelight — and tied them around the flowers — I thought I should never get to the end while wrapping them. Thus secured, a servant carried them into the parlor with “Miss Sarah’s compliments to Mr. Halsey.” Poor Miriam’s cry of surprise at finding her flowers thus appropriated, reached my ears and caused me to laugh again. It was rather cool! But then it was better fun than going down. And then did n’t it flatter his vanity! O men! you vain creatures! A woman would receive a whole bunch of hair and forty thousand bouquets, without having her head turned; while you — Well! I heard enough from Miriam to amuse me, at all events.

And a day or two after, Captain Bradford had a long story to tell her — what he called a good joke on Mr. Halsey. Of how he had found him kissing three long bright hairs in rapture, and on asking where he got them, received as an answer — “ From the God-blessedest little angel that ever wore long hair!” This blessedest little angel did not intend it as a souvenir, and is consequently annoyed about stories of three hairs, intended as a string and nothing more, being wrapped in tissue paper and treasured up — so goes the tale — instead of being thrown into the fire as I certainly expected.

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Last night Anna and Miriam sat on my bed at twilight, playing cards while I tried my guitar, when Captain C——, Major Spratley, and Lieutenant Dupré were announced. Quick, down went the cards as they sprang to their feet to throw off their neat calicoes. Where was Miriam’s comb, and grenadine, and collar, and belt? Good gracious! where was her buckle? On the bureau, mantel, washstand, or under them? “Please move a moment, Anna!” In such a hurry, do! There was Anna, “Wait! I’m in a hurry, too! Where is that pomatum? You Malvina! if you don’t help me, I’ll — There! take that, Miss! Now fly around!” Malvina, with a faint, dingy pink suddenly brought out on her pale sea-green face, did fly around, while I, hushing my guitar in the tumult, watch each running over the other, in silent amazement, wondering if order can come out of such confusion, and if the people downstairs were worth all that trouble.

When I finally made my appearance in the parlor, it was with the Conviction that I would have a dreadfully stupid time, and Captain C— too. However, though at first I had both, soon only the last was left me. Some one suggested calling the Spirits, which game I had imagined “played out” long ago; and we derived a great deal of amusement from it. Six of us around a small table invoked them with the usual ceremony. There was certainly no trick played; every finger was above the board, and all feet sufficiently far from the single leg to insure fair play. Every rap seemed to come exactly from the centre of the table, and was painfully distinct though not loud. When asked if there was a writing medium present, it indicated Captain C——. I observed that he seemed averse to trying it, but yielded at length and took the pencil in his hand.

Our first question, of course, was, How long before Peace? Nine months was written. Which foreign nation would recognize us first? France, then England, in eight months. Who was Miriam to marry? Captain of a battery. “Who?” we all shouted. “Captain C. E. Fenner”[1] was written again. When? In ten months. I believe Captain C—— to be honest about it. He seemed to have no control over his hand, and his arm trembled until it became exceedingly painful. Of course, I do not actually believe in Spiritualism; but there is certainly something in it one cannot understand; and Mrs. Badger’s experience is enough to convert one, alone. Each was startled in turn by extraordinary revelations concerning themselves. Gibbes was to be transferred to the Trans-Mississippi Department,[2] George would come home, and all the gentlemen had the name and address of future sweethearts written in full. The question was asked, “Who will Sarah Morgan fall in love with?” Every eye was on the pencil as a capital “H” was traced. As the “a” followed, I confess to a decided disgust at the Spirits, and was about to beg it might be discontinued when the rest followed rapidly until in three separate lines appeared, “Has not seen him yet” (here came an exclamation of surprise from Lydia and Miriam, who knew how true it was, and even Gibbes looked astonished). “Captain, in Virginia. Captain Charles Lewis.”[3] A perfect buzz of comments followed; every one asked every one else if they knew any one by that name, and every one said no. Gibbes was decidedly more interested than I. That odd “Has not seen him yet,” expressing so exactly the fact that I pride myself upon, carried conviction in the truth of Spirits, almost. “Who will she marry?” asked Gibbes. (He has a pet belief, in which I encourage him, that I will never marry.) Again came the name as distinctly as before, of Captain Charles Lewis. “When will she marry him?” “In June, 1864,” was the answer. I was to meet him in New Orleans. November followed, after a period.

Of course, the Spirits produced some slight commotion which made the time pass pleasantly until Miriam began to waltz with her Monsieur Deux Temps. Then Captain C—— told me why he had been unwilling to try it; of how his father believed so strongly in it that he had very nearly been made crazy by it, and how he had sworn to abandon the practice of consulting them, seeing the effect produced. He did not believe in Spirits himself; but could not account for the influence he was under, when he saw his hand involuntarily write things he was totally unconscious of, himself. However, he proposed that we two should have a private consultation with them, which I opened by asking when I should again see my home. I know he did not know anything about it; but on the paper appeared — “Five months have gone — five months more.” It is just five months since I did see home. I think it was the 26th of August that Charlie took me there. He asked if he should ever marry. “Never. You will be jilted by the lady you love in Missouri, Miss Christina P——.” I pointed it out to him, as he happened to be looking at me when it was written. It surprised him into saying, “Why, I’m engaged to her!” I asked whose spirit was communicating with us. He was watching the dance when his hand wrote, “John C——.” I laughed and asked if there was such a person, pointing to the name. He looked actually sick as he said, “Yes, my brother; he is dead.” I had not the heart to talk of Spirits again; so we took to writing poetry together, every alternate line falling to my lot. It made an odd jingle, the sentimental first line being turned to broad farce by my absurd second one.

[1] Note by Mm. Dawson in 1896: wrong — she married Lieutenant Dupre.

[2] Note by Mrs. Dawson: he was transferred in his coffin.

[3] Captain F. W. Dawson, whom Sarah Morgan eventually married, was at that time a captain in Virginia, and she had not yet seen him.

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