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

August 24, 2013

A Confederate Girl's Diary by Sarah Morgan Dawson

Monday, August 24th.

A letter from Captain Bradford to Miriam. My poor Adonis, that I used to ridicule so unmercifully, what misfortunes have befallen him! He writes that during the siege at Port Hudson he had the top of his ear shot off (wonder if he lost any of that beautiful golden fleece yclept his hair?), and had the cap of his knee removed by a shell, besides a third wound he does not specify. Fortunately he is with kind friends. And he gives news of Lydia, most acceptable since such a time has elapsed since we heard from her. . . . He says, “Tell Miss Sarah that the last I saw of John, he was crossing the Mississippi in a skiff, his parole in his pocket, his sweet little sister by his side,” (O you wretch! at it again!) “and Somebody else in his heart.” How considerate to volunteer the last statement! Then followed half a page of commendation for his bravery, daring, and skill during the siege (the only kind word he ever spoke of him, I dare say), all looking as though I was to take it as an especial compliment to myself, and was expected to look foolish, blush, and say “Thanky” for it. As though I care!

Monday night.

I consider myself outrageously imposed upon! I am so indignant that I have spent a whole evening making faces at myself. “Please, Miss Sarah, look natural!” William petitions. “I never saw you look cross before.” Good reason! I never had more cause! However, I stop in the midst of a hideous grimace, and join in a game of hide the switch with the children to forget my annoyance.

Of course a woman is at the bottom of it. Last night while Ada and Marie were here, a young lady whose name I decline to reveal for the sake of the sex, stopped at the door with an English officer, and asked to see me in the entry. I had met her once before. Remember this, for that is the chief cause of my anger. Of course they were invited in; but she declined, saying she had but a moment, and had a message to deliver to me alone, so led me apart. “Of course you know who it is from?” she began. I told a deliberate falsehood, and said no, though I guessed instantly. She told me the name then. She had visited the prison the day before, and there had met the individual whose name, joined to mine, has given me more trouble and annoyance during the last few months than it would be possible to mention. “And our entire conversation was about you,” she said, as though to flatter my vanity immensely. He told her then that he had written repeatedly to me, without receiving an answer, and at last had written again, in which he had used some expressions which he feared had offended my reserved disposition. Something had made me angry, for without returning letter or message to say I was not displeased, I had maintained a resolute silence, which had given him more pain and uneasiness than he could say. That during all this time he had had no opportunity of explaining it to me, and that now he begged her to tell me that he would not offend me for worlds — that he admired me more than any one he had ever met, that he could not help saying what he did, but was distressed at offending me, etc. The longest explanation! And she was directed to beg me to explain my silence, and let him know if I was really offended, and also leave no entreaty or argument untried to induce me to visit the prison; he must see me.

As to visiting the prison, I told her that was impossible. (O how glad I am that I never did!) But as to the letters, told her “to assure him that I had not thought of them in that light, and had passed over the expressions he referred to as idle words it would be ridiculous to take offense at; and that my only reason for persevering in this silence had been that Brother disapproved of my writing to gentlemen, and I had promised that I would not write to him. That I had feared he would misconstrue my silence, and had wished to explain it to him, but I had no means of doing so except by breaking my promise; and so had preferred leaving all explanation to time, and some future opportunity.”

“But you did not mean to pain him, did you?” the dear little creature coaxingly lisped, standing on tiptoe to kiss me as she spoke. I assured her that I had not. “He has been dangerously ill,” she continued, apologizingly, “and sickness has made him more morbid and more unhappy about it than he would otherwise have been. It has distressed him a great deal.”

I felt awkwardly. How was it that this girl, meeting him for the first and only time in her life, had contrived to learn so much that she had no right to know, and appeared here as mediator between two who were strangers to her, so far usurping a place she was not entitled to, as to apologize to me for his sensitiveness, and to entreat me to tell him he had not forfeited my esteem, as though she was his most intimate friend, and I a passing acquaintance? Failing to comprehend it, I deferred it to a leisure moment to think over, and in the mean time exerted myself to be affable.

I can’t say half she spoke of, but as she was going she said, “Then will you give me permission to say as many sweet things for you as I can think of? I ‘m going there to-morrow.” I told her I would be afraid to give her carte blanche on such a subject; but that she would really oblige me by explaining about the letters. She promised, and after another kiss, and a few whispered words, left me.

Maybe she exaggerated, though! Uncharitable as the supposition was, it was a consolation. I was unwilling to believe that any one who professed to esteem me would make me the subject of conversation with a stranger—and such a conversation! So my comfort was only in hoping that she had related a combination of truth and fiction, and that he had not been guilty of such folly.

Presently it grew clearer to me. I must be growing in wickedness, to fathom that of others, I who so short a time ago disbelieved in the very existence of such a thing. I remembered having heard that the young lady and her family were extremely anxious to form his acquaintance, and that her cousin had coolly informed Ada that she had selected him among all others, and meant to have him for a “beau” as soon as she could be introduced to him; I remembered that the young lady herself had been very anxious to discover whether the reputation common report had given me had any foundation.

As soon as we were alone, I told mother of our conversation in the entry, and said, “And now I am certain that this girl has made use of my name to become acquainted with him.”

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