A Confederate Girl’s Diary

At Randallson’s Landing, August 11th.

I don’t mean those ladies were, but that I am at present. I’ll account for it after I have disposed of the stampede. Imagine no interruption, and continue — in the carriage urging Uncle Will to hurry on, and I had hardly time to thrust my sack under their feet before they were off. Lilly and Miss Walters were already in the buggy, leaving Ginnie and me to follow on horseback. I ran up after my riding-skirt, which I was surprised to find behind a trunk, and rolled up in it was my running-bag, with all my treasures! I was very much provoked at my carelessness; indeed, I cannot imagine how it got there, for it was the first thing I thought of. When I got back, there was no one to be seen except Ginnie and two negroes who held our horses, and who disappeared the instant we were mounted; with the exception of two women who were running to the woods, we were the only ones on the lot, until Mr. Watson galloped up to urge us on. Again I had to notice this peculiarity about women — that the married ones are invariably the first to fly, in time of danger, and always leave the young ones to take care of themselves. Here were our three matrons, prophesying that the house would be burnt, the Yankees upon us, and all murdered in ten minutes, flying down the Guerrilla Lane, and leaving us to encounter the horrors they foretold, alone.

It was a splendid gallop in the bright moonlight, over the fields, only it was made uncomfortable by the jerking of my running-bag, until I happily thought of turning it before. A hard ride of four miles in about twenty minutes brought us to the house of the man who so kindly offered his hospitality. It was a little hut, about as large as our parlor, and already crowded to overflowing, as he was entertaining three families from Baton Rouge. Can’t imagine where he put them, either. But it seems to me the poorer the man, and the smaller the house, the greater the hospitality you meet with. There were so many of us that there was not room on the balcony to turn. The man wanted to prepare supper, but we declined, as Phillie had sent back for ours which we had missed.

I saw another instance of the pleasure the vulgar take in the horrible. A Mr. Hill, speaking of Dr. Nolan, told Phillie “he had no doubt he had been sent to New Orleans on the Whiteman, that carried General Williams’s body; and that every soul had gone down on her.” Fortunately, just then the overseer brought a letter from him saying he had gone on another boat, or the man’s relish of the distressing might have been gratified.

It was so crowded there that we soon suggested going a short distance beyond, to Mr. Lobdell’s, and staying there for the night, as all strenuously objected to our returning home, as there was danger from prowling Yankees. So we mounted again, and after a short ride we reached the house, where all were evidently asleep. But necessity knows no rules; and the driver soon aroused an old gentleman who came out and invited us in. A middle-aged lady met us, and made us perfectly at home by leaving us to take care of ourselves; most people would have thought it indifference; but I knew it was manque de savoir faire, merely, and preferred doing as I pleased. If she had been officious, I would have been embarrassed. So we walked in the moonlight, Ginnie and I, while the rest sat in the shade, and all discussed the fun of the evening, those who had been most alarmed laughing loudest. The old gentleman insisted that we girls had been the cause of it all; that our white bodies (I wore a Russian shirt) and black skirts could easily have caused us to be mistaken for men. That, at all events, three or four people on horseback would be a sufficient pretext for firing a shell or two. “In short, young ladies,” he said, “there is no doubt in my mind that you were mistaken for guerrillas, and that they only wanted to give you time to reach the woods where they heard they have a camp, before shooting at you. In short, take my advice and never mount a horse again when there is a Yankee in sight.” We were highly gratified at being mistaken for them, and pretended to believe it was true. I hardly think he was right, though; it is too preposterous.

Pourtant, Sunday morning the Yankees told a negro they did not mean to touch the house, but were shooting at some guerrillas at a camp just beyond. We know the last guerrilla left the parish five days ago.

Our host insisted on giving us supper, though Phillie represented that ours was on the road; and by eleven o’clock, tired alike of moonlight and fasting, we gladly accepted, and rapidly made the preserves and batter-cakes fly. Ours was a garret room, well finished, abounding in odd closets and corners, with curious dormer windows that were reached by long little corridors. I should have slept well; but I lay awake all night. Mother and I occupied a narrow single bed, with a bar of the thickest, heaviest material imaginable. Suffocation awaited me inside, gnats and mosquitoes outside. In order to be strictly impartial, I lay awake to divide my time equally between the two attractions, and think I succeeded pretty well. So I spent the night on the extreme edge of the bed, never turning over, but fanning mother constantly. I was not sorry when daybreak appeared, but dressed and ascended the observatory to get a breath of air.

Below me, I beheld four wagons loaded with the young Mrs. Lobdell’s baggage. The Yankees had visited them in the evening, swept off everything they could lay their hands on, and with a sick child she was obliged to leave her house in the night and fly to her father-in-law. I wondered at their allowing her four wagons of trunks and bundles; it was very kind. If I were a Federal, I think it would kill me to hear the whisper of “Hide the silver” wherever I came. Their having frequently relieved families of such trifles, along with negroes, teams, etc., has put others on their guard now. As I sat in the parlor in the early morning, Mrs. Walters en blouse volante and all échevelée, came in to tell me of Mr. Lobdell’s misfortunes. “They took his negroes [right hand up]; his teams [left hand up]; his preserves [both hands clutching her hair]; they swept off everything, except four old women who could not walk! they told him if he did n’t come report himself, they’d come fetch him in three days! They beggared him!” [Both eyes rolling like a ship in a storm.] I could not help laughing. Mr. Bird sat on the gallery, and had been served in the same way, with the addition of a pair of handcuffs for a little while. It was not a laughing matter; but the old lady made it comical by her gestures.

When we suggested returning, there was another difficulty. All said it was madness; that the Yankees would sack the house and burn it over our heads; we would be insulted, etc. I said no one yet had ever said an impudent thing to me, and Yankees certainly would not attempt it; but the old gentleman told me I did not know what I was talking about; so I hushed, but determined to return. Ginnie and I sat an hour on horseback waiting for the others to settle what they would do; and after having half-roasted ourselves in the sun, they finally agreed to go, too, and we set off in a gallop which we never broke until we reached the house, which to our great delight we found standing, and not infested with Yankees.

A Confederate Girl’s Diary by Sarah Morgan Dawson

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