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

July 5, 2012

A Confederate Girl's Diary by Sarah Morgan Dawson

July 5th

• • • • • • • • • • •

Think, that since the 28th of May, I have not walked three squares at a time, for my only walks are to Mrs. Brunot’s!

It is enough to kill any one; I might as well be at Ship Island, where Butler has sentenced Mrs. Phillips for laughing while the corpse of a Federal officer[1] was passing — at least, that is to be the principal charge, though I hope, for the sake of Butler’s soul, that he had better reasons. Shocking as her conduct was, she hardly deserved two years’ close confinement in such a dreadful place as that, because she happened to have no sense of delicacy, and no feeling.

“The darkest hour is just before the day”; we have had the blackest night for almost three months, and I don’t see the light yet. “Better days are coming —” I am getting skeptical, I fear me.

I look forward to my future life with a shudder. This one cannot last long; I will be “up and doing” before many months are past. Doing what? Why, if all father left us is lost forever, if we are to be penniless as well as homeless, I’ll work for my living. How, I wonder? I will teach. I know I am not capable, but I can do my best. I would rather die than be dependent; I would rather die than teach. There now, you know how I feel! Teaching before dependence, death before teaching. My soul revolts from the drudgery. I never see a governess that my heart does not ache for her. I think of the nameless, numberless insults and trials she is forced to submit to; of the hopeless, thankless task that is imposed on her, to which she is expected to submit without a murmur; of all her griefs and agony shut up in her heart, and I cry Heaven help a governess. My heart bleeds for them and —

1 o’clock P.M.

Thus far had I reached when news came that our forces were attacking the town, and had already driven the pickets in! I am well now.

We all rushed to make preparations instantly. I had just finished washing my hair, before I commenced writing, and had it all streaming around me; but it did not take a minute to thrust it into a loose net. Then we each put on a fresh dress, except myself, as I preferred to have a linen cambric worn several times before, to a clean one not quite so nice, for that can do good service when washed. The excitement is intense; mother is securing a few of father’s most valuable papers; Lilly running around after the children, and waiting for Charlie who cannot be found; Miriam, after securing all things needful, has gone downstairs to wait the issue; and I, dressed for instant flight, with my running-bag tied to my waist, and knapsack, bonnet, veil, etc., on the bed, occupy my last few moments at home in this profitable way.

Nobody knows what it is. A regiment has been marched out to meet our troops, some say commanded by Van Dorn, which I doubt. The gunboats are preparing to second them; we hear the Garrison drum and see people running, that is all. We don’t know what is coming. I believe it will prove nothing, after all. But —! The gunboat is drawn up so as to command our street here; the guns aimed up the street just below, and if a house falls, ours will be about the first. Well! this time next year, we will know all of which we are now ignorant. That is one consolation! The house will either be down or standing, then.

6 P.M.

We have once more subsided; how foolish all this seems! Miriam and I laughed while preparing, and laughed while unpacking; it is the only way to take such things, and we agree on that, as on most other subjects. “They say” the affair originated from half a dozen shots fired by some Federal soldiers through idleness, whereupon the pickets rushed in screaming Van Dorn was after them at the head of six thousand men. I have my reasons for doubting the story; it must have been something more than that, to spread such a panic; for they certainly had time to ascertain the truth of the attack before they beat the long roll and sent out their troops, for if it had been Van Dorn, he would have been on them before that. Whatever it was, I am glad of the excitement, for it gave me new life for several hours; I was really sick before. Oh, this life! When will it end? Evermore and forevermore shall we live in this suspense? I wish we were in the Sandwich Islands.

[1] Note by Mrs. Dawson in 1906: DeKay, our relative.

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