A Confederate Girl’s Diary


Linwood, August 12th.

Another resting-place! Out of reach of shells for the first time since last April! For how long, I wonder? For wherever we go, we bring shells and Yankees. Would not be surprised at a visit from them out here, now!

Let me take up the thread of that never-ending story, and account for my present position. It all seems tame now; but it was very exciting at the time.

As soon as I threw down bonnet and gloves, I commenced writing; but before I had halfway finished, mother, who had been holding a consultation downstairs, ran up to say the overseer had advised us all to leave, as the place was not safe; and that I must pack up instantly, as, unless we got off before the Essex came up, it would be impossible to leave at all. All was commotion; every one flew to pack up. Phillie determined to go to her friends at Grosse Tete, and insisted on carrying us off with her. But I determined to reach Miriam and Lilly if possible, rather than put the Federal army between us. All en déshabillé, I commenced to pack our trunk, but had scarcely put an article in when they cried the Essex was rounding the point, and our last opportunity passing away. Then I flew; and by the time the boat got opposite to us, the trunk was locked, and I sat on it, completely dressed, waiting for the wagon. We had then to wait for the boat to get out of sight, to avoid a broadside; so it was half-past ten before we set off, fortified by several glasses of buttermilk apiece.

All went in the carriage except Ginnie, Lilly (Nolan), and me, and we perched on the baggage in the wagon. Such stifling heat! The wagon jarred dreadfully, and seated at the extreme end, on a wooden trunk traversed by narrow slats, Ginnie and I were jolted until we lost our breath, all down Arkansas Lane, when we changed for the front part. I shall never forget the heat of that day.

Four miles beyond, the carriage stopped at some house, and, still determined to get over the river, I stepped into the little cart that held our trunks, drove up to the side of it, and insisted on mother’s getting in, rather than going the other way with Phillie. I had a slight discussion, and overcame mother’s reluctance to Phillie’s objections with some difficulty; but finally prevailed on the former to get into the cart, and jolted off amid a shower of reproaches, regrets, and good-byes. I knew I was right, though; and the idea reconciled me to the heat, dust, jarring, and gunboat that was coming up behind us.

Six miles more brought us to Mr. Cain’s, where we arrived at two o’clock, tired, dirty, and almost unrecognizable. We were received with the greatest cordiality in spite of that. Mother knew both him and his wife, but though I had never seen either, the latter kissed me as affectionately as though we had known each other. It was impossible to cross when the gunboat was in sight, so they made us stay with them until the next morning. A bath and clean clothes soon made me quite presentable, and I really enjoyed the kindness we met with, in spite of a “tearing” headache, and a distended feeling about the eyes as though I never meant to close them again — the consequence of my vigil, I presume. O those dear, kind people! I shall not soon forget them. Mr. Cain told mother he believed he would keep me; at all events, he would make an exchange, and give her his only son in my place. I told him I was willing, as mother thought much more of her sons than of her daughters.

I forgot to say that we met General Allen’s partner a mile or two from Dr. Nolan’s, who told us it was a wise move; that he had intended recommending it. All he owned had been carried off, his plantation stripped. He said he had no doubt that all the coast would be ravaged, and they had promised to burn his and many other houses; and Dr. Nolan’s—though it might possibly be spared in consideration of his being a prisoner, and his daughter being unprotected — would most probably suffer with the rest, but even if spared, it was no place for women. He offered to take charge of us all, and send the furniture into the interior before the Yankees should land, which Phillie gladly accepted.

What a splendid rest I had at Mrs. Cain’s! I was not conscious of being alive until I awaked abruptly in the early morning, with a confused sense of having dreamed something very pleasant.

Mr. Cain accompanied us to the ferry some miles above, riding by the buggy; and leaving us under care of Mr. Randallson, after seeing us in the large flat, took his leave. After an hour spent at the hotel after landing on this side, we procured a conveyance and came on to Mr. Elder’s, where we astonished Lilly by our unexpected appearance very much. Miriam had gone over to spend the day with her, so we were all together, and talked over our adventures with the greatest glee. After dinner Miriam and I came over here to see them all, leaving the others to follow later. I was very glad to see Helen Carter once more. If I was not, I hope I may live in Yankee-land! — and I can’t invoke a more dreadful punishment than that.

Well! here we are, and Heaven only knows our next move. But we must settle on some spot, which seems impossible in the present state of affairs, when no lodgings are to be found. I feel like a homeless beggar. Will Pinckney told them here that he doubted if our house were still standing, as the fight occurred just back of it, and every volley directed towards it. He says he thought of it every time the cannon was fired, knowing where the shot would go.

A Confederate Girl’s Diary by Sarah Morgan Dawson

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