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

Post image for Where Dora Miller resists the attempt of a flunky officer to requisition the house she lives in for Pemberton’s headquarters. .

Where Dora Miller resists the attempt of a flunky officer to requisition the house she lives in for Pemberton’s headquarters. .

May 9, 2013

The American Civil War,War Diary of a Union Woman in the South by Dora Richards Miller

May 9th, 1863.—This morning the door-bell rang a startling peal. Martha being busy; I answered it. An orderly in gray stood with an official envelope in his hand.

“Who lives here?”

“Mr. L.”

Very imperiously—”Which Mr. L.?”

“Mr. H.L.”

“Is he here?”


“Where can he be found?”

“At the office of Deputy——.”

“I’m not going there. This is an order from General Pemberton for you to move out of this house in two hours. He has selected it for headquarters. He will furnish you with wagons.”

“Will he furnish another house also?”

“Of course not.”

“Has the owner been consulted?”

“He has not; that is of no consequence; it has been taken. Take this order.”

“I shall not take it, and I shall not move, as there is no place to move to but the street.”

“Then I’ll take it to Mr. L.”

“Very well, do so.”

As soon as Mr. Impertine walked off I locked, bolted, and barred every door and window. In ten minutes H. came home.

“Hold the fort till I’ve seen the owner and the general,” he said, as I locked him out.

Then Dr. B.’s remark in New Orleans about the effect of Dr. C.’s fine presence on the Confederate officials there came to my mind. They are influenced in that way, I thought; I look rather shabby now, I will dress. I made an elaborate toilet, put on the best and most becoming dress I had, the richest lace, the handsomest ornaments, taking care that all should be appropriate to a morning visit; dressed my hair in the stateliest braids, and took a seat in the parlor ready for the fray. H. came to the window and said:

“Landlord says, ‘Keep them out. Wouldn’t let them have his house at any price.’ He is just riding off to the country and can’t help us now. Now I’m going to see Major C, who sent the order.”

Next came an officer, banged at the door till tired, and walked away. Then the orderly came again and beat the door—same result. Next, four officers with bundles and lunch-baskets, followed by a wagon-load of furniture. They went round the house, tried every door, peeped in the windows, pounded and rapped, while I watched them through the blind-slats. Presently the fattest one, a real Falstaffian man, came back to the front door and rung a thundering peal. I saw the chance for fun and for putting on their own grandiloquent style. Stealing on tiptoe to the door, I turned the key and bolt noiselessly, and suddenly threw wide back the door, and appeared behind it. He had been leaning on it, and nearly pitched forward with an “Oh! what’s this?” Then seeing me as he straightened up, “Ah, madam!” almost stuttering from surprise and anger, “are you aware I had the right to break down this door if you hadn’t opened it?”

“That would make no difference to me. I’m not the owner. You or the landlord would pay the bill for the repairs.”

“Why didn’t you open the door?”

“Have I not done so as soon as you rung? A lady does not open the door to men who beat on it. Gentlemen usually ring; I thought it might be stragglers pounding.”

“Well,” growing much blander, “we are going to send you some wagons to move; you must get ready.”

“With pleasure, if you have selected a house for me. This is too large; it does not suit me.”

“No, I didn’t find a house for you.”

“You surely don’t expect me to run about in the dust and shelling to look for it, and Mr. L. is too busy.”

“Well, madam, then we must share the house. We will take the lower floor.”

“I prefer to keep the lower floor myself; you surely don’t expect me to go up and down stairs when you are so light and more able to do it.”

“He walked through the hall, trying the doors. “What room is that?”—”The parlor.” “And this?”— ”My bedroom.” “And this?”— “The dining-room.”

“Well, madam, we’ll find you a house and then come and take this.”

“Thank you, colonel. I shall be ready when you find the house. Good morning, sir.”

I heard him say as he ran down the steps, “We must go back, captain; you see I didn’t know they were this kind of people.”

Of course the orderly had lied in the beginning to scare me, for General Pemberton is too far away from Vicksburg to send such an order. He is looking about for General Grant. We are told he has gone out to meet Johnston; and together they expect to annihilate Grant’s army and free Vicksburg forever. There is now a general hospital opposite this house and a small-pox hospital next door. War, famine, pestilence, and fire surround us. Every day the band plays in front of the small-pox hospital. I wonder if it is to keep up their spirits? One would suppose quiet would be more cheering.


Note: To protect Mrs. Miller’s job as a teacher in New Orleans, the diary was published anonymously, edited by G. W. Cable, names were changed and initials were often used instead of full names — and even the initials differed from the real person’s initials.

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