A Confederate Girl’s Diary

November 4th, 1862.

O what a glorious time we had yesterday! First, there were those two gentlemen to be entertained all day, which was rather a stretch, I confess, so I stole away for a while. Then I got the sweetest letter from Miss Trenholm, enclosing Jimmy’s photograph, and she praised him so that I was in a damp state of happiness and flew around showing my picture to everybody, Mr. Bradford included, who pronounced him a noble boy, and admired him to my satisfaction. Then came a letter from Lilly, saying mother had decided to remain in Clinton, and wanted us to join her there. O my prophetic soul! My heart went below zero! Then Colonel Allen sent to Port Hudson for the band to serenade us, and raised my spirits in anticipation of the treat. While performing my toilet in the evening, Waller Fowler arrived, on his way to Vicksburg, bringing a letter to Miriam from Major Drum! Heaven only knows how it got here! Such a dear, kind letter, dated 6th of August, only! Affairs were very different then, and he said that Lavinia’s distress about us was such that he must try to send her nearer to us. And such an unexpected piece of news! Oh, my heart fails me! I cannot fancy Lavinia a mother.

Slowly I dressed myself, and still more slowly I combed Anna. I could think of nothing else until I heard Miriam and Mr. Bradford call us to take a walk, when we hurried down to them. A race down to the railroad, a merry talk standing on the track mingled with shouts of laughter in which I tried to drown fears for Lavinia, made the early sunset clouds pass away sooner than usual, to us, and moonlight warned us to return. Mrs. Worley passed us in her buggy, coming to stay all night; and halfway a servant met us, saying two soldiers had come to call on us. Once there, I was surprised to find that one was Frank Enders, the one I least expected to see. The other was a Mr. Harold. I need not describe him, beyond this slight indication of his style. Before half an hour was over, he remarked to Anna that I was a very handsome girl, and addressed me as — Miss Sally! That is sufficient.

Then Will Carter came in, and joined our circle. His first aside was, “If you only knew how much I liked you last night, you would never be cruel to me again. Why, I thought you the greatest girl in the world! Please let’s part friends to-night again!” I would not promise, for I knew I would tease him yet; and at supper, when I insisted on his taking a glass of milk, his face turned so red that Mrs. Carter pinched my arm blue, and refused to help me to preserves because I was making Will mad! But Waller helped me, and I drank my own milk to Mr. Carter’s health with my sweetest smile. “Confound that milkman! I wish he had cut his throat before I stumbled over him,” he exclaimed after tea. But I had more amusing game than to make him angry then; I wanted to laugh to get rid of the phantom that pursued me, Lavinia.

The evening passed off very pleasantly; I think there were some eighteen of us in the parlor. About ten the General went to the sugar-house (he commenced grinding yesterday) and whispered to me to bring the young people down presently. Mr. Bradford and I succeeded in moving them, and we three girls retired to change our pretty dresses for plain ones, and get shawls and nuages, for our warm week had suddenly passed away, and it was quite cold out. Some of the gentlemen remarked that very few young ladies would have the courage to change pretty evening dresses for calico, after appearing to such advantage. Many would prefer wearing such dresses, however inappropriate, to the sugar-mill. With his droll gravity, Gibbes answered, “Oh, our girls don’t want to be stuck up!”

There was quite a string of us as we straggled out in the beautiful moonlight, with only Mrs. Badger as an escort. Mr. Enders and I had a gay walk of it, and when we all met at the furnace, we stopped and warmed ourselves, and had a laugh before going in. Inside, it was lighted up with Confederate gas, in other words, pine torches, which shed a delightful light, neither too much nor too little, over the different rooms. We tried each by turns. The row of bubbling kettles with the dusky negroes bending over in the steam, and lightly turning their paddles in the foamy syrup, the whole under the influence of torchlight, was very interesting; but then, Mr. Enders and I found a place more pleasant still. It was in the first purgery, standing at the mouth of the shoot through which the liquid sugar runs into the car; and taking the place of the car as soon as it was run off to the coolers, each armed with a paddle, scraped the colon up and had our own fun while eating. Then running along the little railroad to where the others stood in the second room over the vats, and racing back again all together to eat sugarcane and cut up generally around our first pine torch, we had really a gay time.

Presently “Puss wants a corner” was suggested, and all flew up to the second staging, under the cane-carrier and by the engine. Such racing for corners! Such scuffles among the gentlemen! Such confusion among the girls when, springing forward for a place, we would find it already occupied! All dignity was discarded. We laughed and ran as loud and fast as any children, and the General enjoyed our fun as much as we, and encouraged us in our pranks. Waller surpassed himself, Mr. Bradford carried all by storm, Mr. Enders looked like a schoolboy on a frolic, Mr. Carter looked sullen and tried lazily not to mar the sport completely, while Mr. Harold looked timidly foolish and half afraid of our wild sport. Mrs. Badger laughed, the General roared, Anna flew around like a balloon, Miriam fairly danced around with fun and frolic, while I laughed so that it was an exertion to change corners. Then forfeits followed, with the usual absurd formalities in which Mr. Bradford sentenced himself unconsciously to ride a barrel, Miriam to make him a love speech going home, Mr. Enders to kiss my hand, and I to make him (Mr. Enders) a declaration, which I instantly did, in French, whereby I suffered no inconvenience, as Miriam alone comprehended. Then came more sugar-cane and talk in the purgery, and we were horrified when Mrs. Badger announced that it was twelve o’clock, and gave orders to retire.

O the pleasant walk home! Then, of course, followed a last good-night on the balcony, while the two young men mounted their horses and Frank Enders vowed to slip off every time he had a chance and come out to see us. Then there was a grand proposition for a ride to Port Hudson on horseback, and in order to secure a pledge that we would pass by General Beale’s headquarters, Mr. Enders wrapped my nuage around his throat, declaring that I would be obliged to stop there for it, though, if prevented, he would certainly be obliged to bring it back himself. This morning, however, the married ladies made so much difficulty about who should go, and how, that we were forced to abandon it, much as we would have enjoyed it.

I am afraid to say how late it was when we got to bed. I know it was almost ten when we left the breakfast-table this morning, so I suppose it must have been quite late before we retired. To Colonel Allen’s, as well as to our own great disappointment, the band could not come on account of sickness.

A Confederate Girl’s Diary by Sarah Morgan Dawson

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