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

June 21, 2013

A Confederate Girl's Diary by Sarah Morgan Dawson

Sunday, June 21st.

How about that oath of allegiance? is what I frequently ask myself, and always an uneasy qualm of conscience troubles me. Guilty or not guilty of perjury? According to the law of God in the abstract, and of nations, Yes; according to my conscience, Jeff Davis, and the peculiar position I was placed in, No. Which is it? Had I had any idea that such a pledge would be exacted, would I have been willing to come? Never! The thought would have horrified me. The reality was never placed before me until we reached Bonfouca. There I was terrified at the prospect; but seeing how impossible it would be to go back, I placed all my hopes in some miracle that was to intervene to prevent such a crime, and confidently believed my ill health or something else would save me, while all the rest of the party declared they would think it nothing, and take forty oaths a day, if necessary. A forced oath, all men agree, is not binding. The Yankees lay particular stress on this being voluntary, and insist that no one is solicited to take it except of their own free will. Yet look at the scene that followed, when mother showed herself unwilling! Think of being ordered to the Custom-House as a prisoner for saying she supposed she would have to! That ‘s liberty! that is free will! It is entirely optional; you have only to take it quietly or go to jail.

That is freedom enough, certainly! There was not even that choice left to me. I told the officer who took down my name that I was unwilling to take the oath, and asked if there was no escaping it. “None whatever” was his reply. “You have it to do, and there is no getting out of it.” His rude tone frightened me into half-crying; but for all that, as he said, I had it to do. If perjury it is, which will God punish: me, who was unwilling to commit the crime, or the man who forced me to it?

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