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Library of Congress Subject Headings,
21st edition, 1998
Library of Congress Subject Headings, 21st edition, 1998
Illustrated from contemporary portraits
Copyright, 1905, by Published, September, 1905
THIS RECORD IS WRITTEN
Southern Girl in '61
The War-Time Memories of a Confederate Senator's Daughter
Mrs. D. Giraud Wright
Doubleday, Page& Company
Doubleday, Page & Company
All rights reserved, including that
of translation into foreign languages,
including the Scandinavian
IN LOVING MEMORY
TWO CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS
My Father and My Brother
Illustrated from contemporary portraits
Copyright, 1905, by
Published, September, 1905
THIS RECORD IS WRITTEN
Approach of General Sherman Causes a Rush from Macon - A Louisiana Swamp - Crossing the Mississippi in Dugouts . . . . . 193
THE COMET OF 1858 - JOURNEY BY STAGE COACH FROM MARSHALL TO AUSTIN - A PRAIRIE FIRE - FORDING THE BRAZOS RIVER.
IN gathering the sad and happy memories of the years of which I write, I am actuated by two motives - one, that I am conscious that the days are passing, and that if done at all, the chronicle had best be written ere the eye that has seen these things grows dim and the memory faulty; and the other, that I would fain live in the thoughts of the children who shall come after me, and have their hearts, as they read this record, beat in unison with mine. Thus shall we be linked together in these memories.
I remember, in the summer of 1858, sitting on the broad piazza in front of our home in Marshall, Texas, watching the great comet that hung in the heavens. I can see now the crêpe myrtle bushes with their rose-colored blossoms, flanking the steps; feel again the warm, languorous air of the summer night, heavy with the odor of white jasmine, and honeysuckle; and hear again the voices, long stilled, as we talked together
of the comet and its portent. As a child, I felt the influence of the time: great events were forming; the "irrepressible conflict," which culminated in the awful struggle of the sixties, was just becoming, to the mind of thinkers, a fearful probability; and when we looked at the blazing comet in that fair summer sky, a feeling of awe and mystery enveloped us. Night after night we watched it, and singular to say, it is the only distinct impression left on my mind of the summer of '58.
In the autumn my father was elected the State Senate and we made preparations for our journey to Austin. There were no railroads across the State in those days, and the hundreds of miles had to be traversed by private conveyance, or by stage coach.
We decided to make the expedition in our old- fashioned family carriage, drawn by a pair of stout horses and driven by our negro coachman, Henry. My brother came with us on horseback. We made the journey in easy stages - our luggage, of course, being sent on by coach. We would drive about thirty miles a day - never more; stopping in the middle of the day for an hour or so, when the horses would be thoroughly rested and fed, and we would have our luncheon.
At night, we always stopped at a convenient farmhouse, the location of which had been previously learned, and whose owners were
accustomed, in a country where there were no inns, to receive occasional travelers.
What a delightful journey it was! The beautiful, level, prairie roads, hard, white and smooth, over which we rolled, with little effort on the horses' part - stretching behind and before us that wide expanse of prairie, now, in November, covered with tall, waving, yellow grass; but in June glorious with the exquisite blue flowers of the buffalo clover - stopping, from time to time, to water the horses from the pure, limpid springs; the heavens blue as a sapphire and the sun shining!
I do not remember any rainy days in the ten during which we were on the road. The midday meal, taken by the banks of some clear, beautiful stream, was a feast indeed - a daily picnic of the most enchanting kind.
I recall only two adventures by the way. One was our setting the prairie on fire by thoughtlessly throwing a lighted match in the dry grass, which might have resulted very seriously had we not been near a stream, and had not the wind been blowing towards it, and in the opposite direction from that in which we were going. As it happened, it was an interesting and novel sight, viewed at a safe distance. And it resulted in much merriment, as we recalled our first frightened efforts to put out the prairie fire by futile little journeyings to and from the stream with cups of water.
Our other adventure was fording the Brazos River, a broad, swift-running, shallow stream, so limpid that the stones on the bottom were clearly visible.
When we reached the ford, we knew nothing of the treacherous character of the sandy bottom, and when about fifty feet from the shore the horses stopped to drink. Imagine our horror when we felt the carriage beginning to sink and the horses to plunge in a vain endeavor to extricate themselves. Luckily for us, the quicksands were not very deep, and having sunk as far as the hubs of the wheels, there we stuck, hard and fast. My brother, who was on horseback, was able to approach cautiously, and took each of us out of the carriage window, when, seated behind him and holding on to him with a grip made intense by necessity and terror, we rode rapidly across the river and were landed safely on the other side. The carriage, now being lightened of its weight, was raised, and the horses were enabled to get on a firmer footing and soon were out of their dangerous position. I must say that I think we all behaved very well, as I have no recollection of any excitement or cries of terror, which might have been expected of us in such a new and trying experience.
I recall very vividly the evening when we came in sight of the city of Austin: the brilliant autumn sunset, the invigorating air, the lovely view of
the surrounding country, the sound of the horses' feet ringing on the hard, smooth road, as we rolled along, down the slope that brought us to our journey's end - half way across the State of Texas, in ten days.
THE WRITER'S HOME IN MARSHALL - ANECDOTES OF FAITHFUL NEGROES - REMOVAL TO WASHINGTON - MEETINGS WITH SENATORS CLAY AND SLIDELL AND THEIR WIVES AND OTHER NOTABLES.
IT IS curious how the minor things in a life stand out against the background of the past like silhouettes. The great events are harder to remember than the trifles.
The village of Marshall was not different from a thousand other little country towns throughout the South. The houses set back from the sandy street, with their front yards filled with roses and honeysuckles; the back yards with the servants' quarters and the wood piles; the well dug deep to reach the cool water; and in it the tempting bucket in which the luscious watermelon was sent down to its mysterious depths, and from which it emerged covered with a silver frost. The happy little darkies played in the background through the summer day, and gathered around the kitchen fire when the nights grew chill, and the white folks at "the house" sat by the roaring hickory logs at the chimney side.
I never see a big wood fire but I remember my father and the way he constructed his: The huge back log, first; the light-wood knots in front, and on top the wealth of smaller hickory; and then the blaze, and the warmth, and the delight of replenishing!
There is one little figure, that stands out in positive and pathetic prominence, as I think of those old days; little Emmeline, the small negro girl who was my constant companion. She loved me with a devotion that I have never seen excelled, and in her brief life (for she died when eight years old) she made an impression which has never left me, and which I am glad to record here. When she died, after a short illness, I grieved sincerely; and to this day cannot think of her without a pang.
Strange to say, of our many plays together only two incidents can I recall. It was the fourth of July. The arrival of the day had been announced at dawn by the explosion of gunpowder placed in an anvil, this being the primitive method in vogue among the village patriots for ushering in the anniversary and producing the desired amount of noise. There was, of course, the usual popping of firecrackers, and the usual parade of the militia.
When little Emmeline heard the shouts and the music, she left the enchantment of the approaching
pageant, even at the risk of losing the sight, to summon me.
"Oh! run, run," she screamed at the top of her voice, "run, and look; General Washington done come."
We had a dear old doctor in the village, and he had one invariable method of diagnosis, which used to cause us all infinite amusement. Whatever the disease, and wherever situated, he always, before administering his remedies, would first proceed to feel our spines. We thought it very funny, but he was only a little in advance of his school. Nowadays, I believe, the osteopaths pursue the same practice and proclaim much the same doctrine, as to the general seat of disease. Now Emmeline, like the rest of her race, was imitative; she liked to play doctor. We saw her one day, having cornered a little piccaninny, named Hannah, proceed to poke and punch different portions of her anatomy in true medical style, accentuating her thrusts with the suggestive query as to the location of the supposed pain, her voice taking on an indescribable whine, supposed to be professional.
"Hannah, Hannah, docker Baylor say your backbone hurt you, Hannah?"
If she had lived in later days who knows in what new school of medicine she might not have been a burning and a shining light!
Then there was the Court House in the middle
of the square, where the voice of the crier was heard on Court days calling, "Oh yes, oh, yes, come into Court," and the long rack where the horses were hitched in patient rows, switching off the flies with their long tails. Fortunately for them "docking" was an unknown art.
Then there was the tavern, with the wide front piazza, where appeared the benches and the split- bottomed chairs, with their leisurely occupants; and the inevitable accompaniment of elevated legs on the railing, which some cavilling Britisher has styled the attitude of the American Congressman.
I can hear now the dinner bell, summoning the guests at the hour of noon. The boys had a song to fit the monotonous sound, suggestive of the quality and quantity of the repast.
done, Pigtail done,
If you don't come quick
You won't git none!"
Then there were the churches of different denominations. The quaint Methodist buildings, where the men sat on one side and the women on the other; where, on Sunday evenings, however, the rules were not so strict but that the girls made themselves pretty and coquettish enough, in their sweet summer dresses land won many a sly glance of approbation from across the rigid dividing line.
Then there were the hard-shell Baptists and the Campbellite Baptists; and from their pulpits the theologians of the different schools pronounced a sufficient variety of dogmas to daunt the souls and bewilder the minds of ordinary mortals.
Many of the negroes were members of one or other of these denominations. "Dick" professed conversion and was taken into the fold by immersion. When "Marcia" heard of it her comment was congratulatory for two reasons, "One t'ing, Dick got a good washin'."
It was against the rules for the negroes to be out at night without a "pass," and it was the custom to come to young "Massa" or "Missus" to write them for them. Many a one have I written. "Henry has permission to pass and repass until ten o'clock" was the usual form.
There have been volumes written about the negro, generally by persons who knew nothing, by practical experience, of the subject of which they wrote. They theorized, from a false basis, on a condition of things which existed only in their imaginations; and they built up a fabric, which, in these later days, has tumbled down about their ears, and bids fair, in its fall, to work havoc, in more directions than one. It may be that out of the dirt and débris, a new structure will be erected in time; but that time is certainly not yet. Now I do not propose to theorize on the subject. I merely wish to relate two or three
facts, to the truth of which I can bear witness - facts that exhibit the character of the negro, as shown during the War, under the then existing conditions of slavery.
When my parents left home in the autumn of 1860 to go to Washington, they anticipated returning in a few months. We had a faithful woman, named Sarah, whose family had belonged to ours for two generations. Before our departure the silver was packed away and the key given to Sarah. For nearly four years we were absent. During that time the house was occupied, on several occasions, as headquarters, by Generals of our own army in command at Marshall, permission of course being given. Sarah, for the credit of the establishment, as she told us afterwards, produced the silver and had it constantly in use. When we returned, not a single piece was missing; though, in the meantime the War had ended, and she was free to come and go as she chose, and could easily, in the lawlessness of the time, have decamped with her prize, with no one to gainsay her. When, on our return home after weeks of waiting in fear and anxiety for my father's safety, at last tidings were brought us that he was in our neighborhood - it was to Sarah that we confided the fact, and through her connivance, under cover of night, he entered his home. It was Sarah who watched with us and stood on guard through the long weary hours
while we sat together and talked over the plans for the future - and it was Sarah who saw in the early dawn that the coast was clear for her master - her master no longer - to make his escape from his foes!
Then again there was Henry, my brother's body servant during the War. In looking back it seems strange that officers in the army, at a time when they were barely existing on a third of a pound of bacon a day and a little corn meal, should have decreased their slender store by sharing it with servants. But those were the good old days and the good old ways, and I, for one, would never have changed them! Now one of my father's admirers in Texas had sent to him at Richmond a very beautiful Mexican saddle, heavily mounted in silver, and he, caring little for such vanities and always delighting to give to his children, promptly transferred the valuable present to my brother. Henry's pride in his young master's grandeur was unbounded, and he polished the handsome silver mountings with unwearied zeal, and I doubt if the suggestion ever occurred to his simple mind as to how sensible it would be to convert a portion of those jingling chains and buckles into some good digestible article to appease the ever-present hunger of both master and man. After General Johnston's surrender, and when my brother determined to make his way across the river to join Kirby Smith, he
had to part from Henry. That Henry should leave him voluntarily never occurred to either of them. He left him at a point in Alabama and told him to wait with the horse and famous saddle until he should receive orders to come. And there he remained for weeks, faithful and obedient. When at last my brother wrote for him he sold the horse and the saddle, according to his orders, and with the proceeds made his way home, where he appeared one day to give an account of his adventures and expenditures. Can these instances of faithful service be matched in any negro to-day, after nearly forty years of freedom?
The negro in slavery before and during the War, was lazy and idle - he will always be that - but he was simple, true and faithful. What he has become since his emancipation from servitude is a queer comment on the effect of the liberty bestowed upon him. But that is going very far afield and away from our subject.
The great events in the county were the barbecues and the commencements. The former were generally the means of gathering the politicians who made stump speeches, and instructed the people as to the proper way to construe the Constitution, and duly inculcated the doctrine of States' rights. Here, over a great pit, spanned by iron rods, were laid and roasted huge beeves and hogs, the dispensing of which savory viands, on immense tables spread under the shade of the
branching oaks, was good to see, and better to smell, and best of all to taste.
Then the Commencements were the events of the year. The "sweet girl graduates" in their filmy white robes and dainty ribbons, with compositions in hand, astonishing the dear old country papas and mamas, by "words of learned length and thundering sound", and blushing and simpering under the admiring gaze of the youthful swains. I knew of one of these, after an occasion of the sort, expressing his feelings of admiration in rather an original way, by sending his lady love a magnificent watermelon with its dear little curly tail tied with a blue ribbon! This youthful enthusiast bore the euphonious appellation of Alonzo Womack, and some cruel, unfeeling one, with a prophetic eye to the possible result of a mutual consumption of the luscious gift, made the following suggestive couplet:
With a pain in his stomach."
From Marshall, my thoughts naturally drift back to Austin where we spent two winters before my father's election to the United States Senate.
I wonder if my descendants, should they ever read these memoirs, will be shocked at the levity of an ancestress who frankly acknowledges that the most vivid recollection left on her mind is a grey merino pélisse and black beaver hat and
plumes with which her small person was decked during the winter of 1859. At the house where we spent the winter I do remember several interesting people.
One of these was "Tom" Ochiltree, whose name has since attained wide celebrity. He was then clerk of the Texas Senate, young and full of spirit and mischief and cleverness, of a kindly temper and fond of children.
A little girl of six, staying in the house with him, became deeply enamoured, and used to weep bitterly when her elders, to tease her, would declare that his locks, which were of an intensified Titian tint, would set the house afire.
At this date occurred the event, which was to transport me from the quiet life I had led into that vast theatre whereon was acted the greatest tragedy of modern times, and in which those nearest and dearest to me played prominent parts. From their intimate connection with the chief actors in those tragic days I have been taken behind the scenes, and enabled from tale of lip and pen to write this chronicle.
I well remember the night we sat waiting together for news from the Capitol, when suddenly the sound of music was heard and the shouts of the crowd coming to announce the election of my father to the United States Senate. In a short time thereafter we went to Washington, by way of Galveston, where we took the steamer for
New Orleans, and thence up the Mississippi River to Memphis, from where the railroad carried us to our destination.
I remember my delight in that journey. New Orleans, with its foreign air and beautiful shops; the old St. Charles Hotel, where we stopped for a while, that our wardrobes might receive a finishing touch at the hands of the modistes and milliners, whose good taste was proverbial. Then the week on that river palace, the old John Simonds, one of the famous boats of the day. Such luxury of living, even in these times, could not be excelled. And the delicious leisure of it, the lack of hurry and bustle. A week to go from New Orleans to Memphis!
When we reached Washington, we joined the colony at Brown's Hotel, where the atmosphere was as distinctly Southern in character as it was Northern at Willard's, the rival house. Among the many interesting people at "Brown's" were Senator Clement C. Clay and his brilliant wife. Mrs. Clay was a woman of great vivacity, and rare charm of manner; her cleverness and wit made her a delightful companion, and her lively sallies at the great fancy ball, in the winter of '58, where she personated "Mrs. Partington," with a young friend in attendance as "Ike," will long be remembered
Here, I saw, for the first time what was then called "dollar jewelry," and this was when Mrs.
Clay came down to dinner one night, very elegantly gowned, her ornaments being a beautiful set of carbuncles, which sparkled and glowed in the lamplight. After having called attention to her new acquisitions and had them duly admired, she laughingly confessed that she had purchased the gems at the "dollar store" as a present for her maid. This happy, buoyant temper enabled her to bear up under the sorrows of the coming years, when her husband, sent as a Commissioner from the Confederacy to Canada, was, on his return, imprisoned on a charge of complicity with the assassination of Lincoln (fancy Clement Clay, the noblest, kindest, most gentle of men, in the character of an assassin!), and though released after months of suffering and hardship, never recovered his health or spirits. Photography was in its infancy at this time, and the little "cartes de visite," which then the fashion to present to one's friends, show what a wide step has been taken between those crude attempts and the finished works of art of this day.
Among the many prominent personalities who
crowd my memory for recognition are Senator
and Mrs. Slidell, of Louisiana, and their lovely
daughters, one of whom afterward married Baron
Erlanger, of Paris. Mr. Slidell will probably be
best remembered by his connection with the Trent
affair. Mrs. Slidell and her daughters were on the
vessel when her husband was removed and