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

A Confederate Girl’s Diary

June 16, 2012

A Confederate Girl's Diary by Sarah Morgan Dawson

“I hope to die shouting, the Lord will provide!”

Monday, June 16th, 1862.

There is no use in trying to break off journalizing, particularly in “these trying times.” It has become a necessity to me. I believe I should go off in a rapid decline if Butler took it in his head to prohibit that among other things. . . . I reserve to myself the privilege of writing my opinions, since I trouble no one with the expression of them. . . . I insist, that if the valor and chivalry of our men cannot save our country, I would rather have it conquered by a brave race than owe its liberty to the Billingsgate oratory and demonstrations of some of these “ladies.” If the women have the upper hand then, as they have now, I would not like to live in a country governed by such tongues. Do I consider the female who could spit in a gentleman’s face, merely because he wore United States buttons, as a fit associate for me? Lieutenant Biddle assured me he did not pass a street in New Orleans without being most grossly insulted by ladies. It was a friend of his into whose face a lady spit as he walked quietly by without looking at her. (Wonder if she did it to attract his attention?) He had the sense to apply to her husband and give him two minutes to apologize or die, and of course he chose the former.[1] Such things are enough to disgust any one. “Loud” women, what a contempt I have for you! How I despise your vulgarity!

Some of these Ultra-Secessionists, evidently very recently from “down East,” who think themselves obliged to “kick up their heels over the Bonny Blue Flag,” as Brother describes female patriotism, shriek out, “What! see those vile Northerners pass patiently! No true Southerner could see it without rage. I could kill them! I hate them with all my soul, the murderers, liars, thieves, rascals! You are no Southerner if you do not hate them as much as I!” Ah ça! a true-blue Yankee tell me that I, born and bred here, am no Southerner! I always think, “It is well for you, my friend, to save your credit, else you might be suspected by some people, though your violence is enough for me.” I always say, “You may do as you please; my brothers are fighting for me, and doing their duty, so that excess of patriotism is unnecessary for me, as my position is too well known to make any demonstrations requisite.”

This war has brought out wicked, malignant feelings that I did not believe could dwell in woman’s heart. I see some of the holiest eyes, so holy one would think the very spirit of charity lived in them, and all Christian meekness, go off in a mad tirade of abuse and say, with the holy eyes wondrously changed, “I hope God will send down plague, yellow fever, famine, on these vile Yankees, and that not one will escape death.” O, what unutterable horror that remark causes me as often as I hear it! I think of the many mothers, wives, and sisters who wait as anxiously, pray as fervently in their faraway homes for their dear ones, as we do here; I fancy them waiting day after day for the footsteps that will never come, growing more sad, lonely, and heart-broken as the days wear on; I think of how awful it would be if one would say, “Your brothers are dead”; how it would crush all life and happiness out of me; and I say, “God forgive these poor women! They know not what they say!” O women! into what loathsome violence you have abased your holy mission! God will punish us for our hard-heartedness. Not a square off, in the new theatre, lie more than a hundred sick soldiers. What woman has stretched out her hand to save them, to give them a cup of cold water? Where is the charity which should ignore nations and creeds, and administer help to the Indian and Heathen indifferently? Gone! All gone in Union versus Secession! That is what the American War has brought us. If I was independent, if I could work my own will without causing others to suffer for my deeds, I would not be poring over this stupid page; I would not be idly reading or sewing. I would put aside woman’s trash, take up woman’s duty, and I would stand by some forsaken man and bid him Godspeed as he closes his dying eyes. That is woman’s mission! and not Preaching and Politics. I say I would, yet here I sit! O for liberty! the liberty that dares do what conscience dictates, and scorns all smaller rules! If I could help these dying men! Yet it is as impossible as though I was a chained bear. I can’t put out my hand. I am threatened with Coventry because I sent a custard to a sick man who is in the army, and with the anathema of society because I said if I could possibly do anything for Mr. Biddle — at a distance — (he is sick) I would like to very much. Charlie thinks we have acted shockingly in helping Colonel McMillan, and that we will suffer for it when the Federals leave. I would like to see any man who dared harm my father’s daughter! But as he seems to think our conduct reflects on him, there is no alternative. Die, poor men, without a woman’s hand to close your eyes! We women are too patriotic to help you! I look eagerly on, cry in my soul, “I wish —”; you die; God judges me. Behold the woman who dares not risk private ties for God’s glory and her professed religion! Coward, helpless woman that I am! If I was free —!

[1] This passage was later annotated by Mrs. Dawson as follows: “Friend (Farragut). Lady (I know her, alas!). Husband (She had none!).”

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