January 1, 1864.
A melancholy pause in my diary.
After returning from church on the night of the 13th, a telegram was handed me from Professor Minor
, of the University of Virginia, saying, “Come at once, Colonel Colston
is extremely ill.”
After the first shock was over, I wrote an explanatory note to Major Brewer
, why I could not be at the office next day, packed my trunk, and was in the cars by seven in the morning. That evening I reached the University
, and found dear R. desperately ill with pneumonia, which so often follows, as in the case of General Jackson
, the amputation of limbs.
were in attendance, and R's uncle, Dr. Brockenbrough
, arrived the next day. After ten days of watching and nursing, amid alternate hopes and fears, we saw our friend Dr. Maupin
close our darling's eyes, on the morning of the 23d; and on Christmas-day a military escort laid him among many brother soldiers in the Cemetery
of the University of Virginia.
He died in the faith of Christ
, and with the glorious hope of immortality.
His poor mother is heart-stricken, but she, together with his sisters, and one dearer still, had the blessed, and what is now the rare privilege, of soothing and nursing him in his last hours.
To them, and to us all, his life seemed as a part of our own. His superior judgment and affectionate temper made him the guide of his whole
To them his loss can never be supplied.
His country has lost one of its earliest and best soldiers.
Having been educated at the Virginia Military Institute, he raised and drilled a company in his native County of Berkeley
, at the time of the John Brown
In 1861 he again led that company to Harper's Ferry
From that time he was never absent more than a week or ten days from his command, and even when wounded at Gaines's Mills, he absented himself but three days, and was again at his post during the several last days of those desperate fights.
His fatal wound was received in his nineteenth general engagement, in none of which had he his superior in bravery and devotion to the cause.
He was proud of belonging to the glorious Stonewall Brigade, and I have been told by those who knew the circumstances, that he was confided in and trusted by General Jackson
to a remarkable degree.
Thus we bury, one by one, the dearest, the brightest, the best of our domestic circles.
Now, in our excitement, while we are scattered, and many of us homeless, these separations are poignant, nay, overwhelming; but how can we estimate the sadness of heart which will pervade the South
when the war is over, and we are again gathered together around our family hearths and altars, and find the circles broken?
One and another gone.
Sometimes the father and husband, the beloved head of the household, in whom was centred all that made life dear.
Again the eldest son and brother of the widowed home, to whom all looked for guidance and direction; or, perhaps, that bright youth, on whom we had not ceased to look as still a child, whose fair, beardless cheek we had but now been in the habit of smoothing with our hands in fondness-one to whom mother and
sisters would always give the good-night kiss, as his peculiar due, and repress the sigh that would arise at the thought that college or business days had almost come to take him from us. And then we will remember the mixed feeling of hope and pride when we first saw this household pet don his jacket of gray and shoulder his musket for the field; how we would be bright and cheerful before him, and turn to our chambers to weep oceans of tears when he is fairly gone.
And does he, too, sleep his last sleep?
Does our precious one fill a hero's grave?
help us, for the wail is in the whole land!
weeping for her children, and will not be comforted, because they are not.”
In all the broad South
there will be scarcely a fold without its missing lamb, a fireside without its vacant chair.
And yet we must go on. It is our duty to rid our land of invaders; we must destroy the snake which is endeavouring to entwine us in its coils, though it drain our heart's blood.
We know that we are right in the sight of God, and that we must
With patient mind our course of duty run.
God nothing does, or suffers to be done,
But we would do ourselves, if we could see
The end of all events as well as He.
reigneth, be the earth never so unquiet.
January 3, 1864.
Entered on the duties of my office on the 30th of December.
So far I like it well.
” is very kind, and considerate of our comfort; the duties of the office are not very onerous, but rather confining for one who left school thirty-four years ago, and has had no restraint of the kind during the interim.
The ladies, thirty-five in number, are of all ages, and representing various parts of Virginia
, also Maryland
them are refugees.
It is melancholy to see how many wear mourning for brothers or other relatives, the victims of war. One sad young girl sits near me, whose two brothers have fallen on the field, but she is too poor to buy mourning.
I found many acquaintances, and when I learned the history of others, it was often that of fallen fortunes and destroyed homes.
One young lady, of highsounding Maryland
name, was banished from Baltimore
, because of her zeal in going to the assistance of our Gettysburg
The society is pleasant, and we hope to get along very agreeably.
I am now obliged to visit the hospital in the afternoon, and I give it two evenings in the week.
It is a cross to me not to be able to give it more time; but we have very few patients just now, so that it makes very little difference.
January 15, 1864.
Nothing new from the armies-all quiet.
At home we are in statu quo
, except that we have had a very agreeable accession to our family party in the person of Colonel
C. F. M. G. He sleeps in his office, and messes with us. He cheers us every day by bringing the latest news, in the most pleasant form which the nature of the case will admit.
My occupation at home just now is as new as that in the office — it is shoe-making.
I am busy upon the second pair of gaiter boots.
They are made of canvas, presented me by a friend.
It was taken from one of our James River
vessels, and has been often spread to the breeze, under the “Stars and bars.”
The vessel was sunk among the obstructions at Drury's Bluff.
The gaiters are cut out by a shoemaker, stitched and bound by the ladies, then soled by a shoemaker, for the moderate sum of fifty dollars. Last year he put soles on a pair for ten dollars. They are then blacked with the
material used for blacking guns in the navy.
They are very handsome gaiters, and bear polishing by blacking and the shoe-brush as well as morocco.
They are lasting, and very cheap when compared with those we buy, which are from $125 to $150 per pair.
We are certainly becoming very independent of foreign aid. The girls make beautifully fitting gloves, of dark flannel, cloth, linen, and any other material we can command.
We make very nice blacking, and a friend has just sent me a bottle of brilliant black ink, made of elderberries.
February 15, 1864.
A pause in my diary; but nothing of importance has occurred, either at home or with the country.
The armies are mud-bound — I wish they could continue so. I dread the approach of Spring, with its excitements and horrors.
Prices of provisions have risen enormously-bacon $8 per pound, butter $15, etc. Our old friends from the lower part of Essex
--‘s parishioners for many years, sent over a wagon filled most generously with all manner of necessary things for our larder.
We have no right to complain, for Providence
is certainly supplying our wants.
The clerks' salaries, too, have been raised to $250 per month, which sounds very large; but when we remember that flour is $300 per barrel, it sinks into insignificance.
February 28th, 1864.
Our hearts ache for the poor.
A few days ago, as E. was walking out, she met a wretchedly dressed woman, of miserable appearance, who said she was seeking the Young Men's Christian Association, where she hoped to get assistance and work to do. E. carried her to the door, but it was closed, and the poor woman's wants were pressing.
She then brought her home, supplied her with food, and told her to return to see me the following afternoon.
She came, and with an honest countenance and manner told me her history.
Her name is Brown
; her husband had been a workman in Fredericksburg
; he joined the army, and was killed at the second battle of Manassas
Many of her acquaintances in Fredericksburg
fled last winter during the bombardment; she became alarmed, and with her three little children fled too. She had tried to get work in Richmond
; sometimes she succeeded, but could not supply her wants.
A kind woman had lent her a room and a part of a garden, but it was outside of the corporation; and although it saved house-rent, it debarred her from the relief of the associations formed for supplying the city poor with meal, wood, etc. She had evidently been in a situation little short of starvation.
I asked her if she could get bread enough for her children by her work?
She said she could sometimes, and when she could not, she “got turnip-tops from her piece of a garden, which were now putting up smartly, and she boiled them, with a little salt, and fed them on that.”
“But do they satisfy your hunger,” said I?
“Well, it is something to go upon for awhile, but it does not stick by us like as bread does, and then we gets hungry again, and I am afraid to let the children eat them too often, lest they should get sick ; so I tries to get them to go to sleep; and sometimes the woman in the next room will bring the children her leavings, but she is monstrous poor.”
When I gave her meat for her children, taken from the bounty of our Essex
friends, tears of gratitude ran down her cheeks ; she said they “had not seen meat for so long.”
Poor thing, I promised her that her case should be known, and that she should not suffer so again.
A soldier's widow shall not suffer from hunger in Richmond
It must not be, and will not be when her case
Others are now interested for her. This evening Mrs
. R. and myself went in pursuit of her; but though we went through all the streets and lanes of “Butcher Flat” and other vicinities, we could get no clue to her. We went into many small and squalid-looking houses, yet we saw no such abject poverty as Mrs. Brown
's. All who needed it were supplied with meal by the corporation, and many were supporting themselves with Government work.
One woman stood at a table cutting out work; we asked her the stereotyped question--“Is there a very poor widow named Brown
in this direction?”
“No, ladies; I knows two Mrs. Browns
, but they ain't so poor, and ain't no widows nuther.”
As neither of them was our Mrs.
B., we turned away; but she suddenly exclaimed, “Ladies, will one of you read my husband's last letter to me?
for you see I can't read writing.”
R. took it, she remarked that it was four weeks old, and asked if no one had read it to her?
“Oh yes, a gentleman has read it to me four or five times; but you see I loves to hear it, for may-be I shan't hear from him no more.”
The tears now poured down her cheeks.
“He always writes to me every chance, and it has been so long since he wrote that, and they tell me that they have been fighting, and may-be something has happened to him.”
We assured her that there had been no fightingnot even a skirmish.
This quieted her, and Mrs
. R. read the badly written but affectionate letter, in which he expresses his anxiety to see her and his children, and his inability to get a furlough.
She then turned to the mantelpiece, and with evident pride took from a nail an old felt hat, through the crown of which were two bullet-holes.
It was her husband's hat, through which a bullet had passed in the battle of Chancellorsville
, and, as she remarked,
must have come “very nigh grazing his head.”
We remarked upon its being a proof of his bravery, which gratified her very much; she then hung it up carefully, saying that it was just opposite her bed, and she never let it be out of her sight.
She said she wanted her husband to fight for his country, and not “to stand back, like some women's husbands, to be drafted; she would have been ashamed of that, but she felt uneasy, because something told her that he would never get back.”
we felt very much interested in her, and tried to comfort her.
March 10, 1864.
There has been much excitement in Richmond
's and Dahlgren
's raids, and the death of the latter.
The cannon roared around the city, the alarm-bell rang, the reserves went out; but Richmond
was safe, and we felt no alarm.
As usual, they did all the injury they could to country-people, by pillaging and burning.
They steal every thing they can; but the people have become very adroit in hiding.
, flour, etc., are put in most mysterious places; plate and handsome china are kept under ground; horses are driven into dense woods, and the cattle and sheep are driven off. It is astonishing, though much is taken, how much is left.
I suppose the raiders are too much hurried for close inspection.
March 20th, 1864.
Our Lent services in St. Paul
's Lecture-room, at seven o'clock in the morning, are delightful.
The room is always crowded to overflowing — the old, the young, the grave, the gay, collect there soon after sunrise; also military officers in numbers.
When General Lee
is in town, as he now is, he is never absent, and always one of the most devout worshippers.
Within a few days I have seen General Whiting
there; also Generals Ransom
Starred officers of all grades, colonels, majors
, etc., together with many others belonging to the rank and file; and civilians of every degree.
It is delightful to see them, all bending together before high Heaven, imploring the help which we so much need.