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 19, 2012

A Confederate Girl's Diary by Sarah Morgan Dawson

June 19th.

Miriam and I have disgraced ourselves! This morning I was quietly hearing Dellie’s lessons, when I was startled by mother’s shrieks of “Send for a guard — they’ve murdered him!” I saw through the window a soldier sitting in the road just opposite, with blood streaming from his hand in a great pool in the dust. I was downstairs in three bounds, and, snatching up some water, ran to where he sat alone, not a creature near, though all the inhabitants of our side of the street were looking on from the balconies, all crying “Murder!” and “Help!” without moving themselves. I poured some water on the man’s bloody hand, as he held it streaming with gore up to me, saying, “The man in there did it,” meaning the one who keeps the little grog-shop, though it puzzled me at the time to see that all the doors were closed and not a face visible. I had hardly time to speak when Tiche called loudly to me to come away, —she was safe at the front gate, — and looking up, I found myself in a knot of a dozen soldiers, and took her advice and retreated home. It proved to be the guard Miriam had roused. She ran out as I did, and seeing a gentleman, begged him to call the guard for that murdered man. The individual — he must have been a “patriot” — said he didn’t know where to find one. She cried out they were at Heroman’s; he said he did n’t believe they were. “Go! I tell you!” she screamed at last; but the brave man said he did n’t like to, so she ran to the corner and called the soldiers herself. O most brave man! Before we got back from our several expeditions, we heard mother, Lilly, Mrs. Day, all shouting, “Bring in the children! lock the doors!” etc. All for a poor wounded soldier!

We after discovered that the man was drunk, and had cursed the woman of the grog-shop, whereupon her husband had pitched him out in the street, where they found him. They say he hurt his hand against a post; but wood could never have cut deep enough to shed all that gore. I don’t care if he was drunk or sober, soldier or officer, Federal or Confederate! If he had been Satan himself lying helpless and bleeding in the street, I would have gone to him! I can’t believe it was as criminal as though I had watched quietly from a distance, believing him dying and contenting myself with looking on. Yet it seems it was dreadfully indecorous; Miriam and I did very wrong; we should have shouted murder with the rest of the women and servants. Whereas the man who declined committing himself by calling one soldier to the rescue of another, supposed to be dying, acted most discreetly, and showed his wisdom in the most striking manner.

May I never be discreet, or wise, if this is Christian conduct, or a sample of either! I would rather be a rash, impetuous fool! Charlie says he would not open his mouth to save a dozen from being murdered. I say I am not Stoic enough for that. Lilly agrees with him, Miriam with me; so here we two culprits stand alone before the tribunal of “patriotism.” Madame Roland, I take the liberty of altering your words and cry, “O Patriotism! How many base deeds are sanctioned by your name!” Don’t I wish I was a heathen! In twenty-four hours the whole country will be down on us.

       O for a pen to paint the slaves
Whose “country” like a deadly blight
Closes all hearts when Pity craves
And turns God’s spirit to darkest night!
May life’s patriotic cup for such
Be filled with glory overmuch;
And when their spirits go above in pride,
Spirit of Patriotism, let these valiant abide
Full in the sight of grand mass-meeting — I don’t
Want you to cuss them,
But put them where they can hear politics,
And yet can’t discuss them!

(I can’t say worse than that!)

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