A Diary From Dixie Part 22
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May 16th. - We are scattered and stunned, the remnant of heart left alive within us filled with brotherly hate. We sit and wait until the drunken tailor who rules the United States of America issues a proclamation, and defines our anomalous position.
Such a hue and cry, but whose fault? Everybody is blamed by somebody else. The dead heroes left stiff and stark on the battle-field escape, blame every man who stayed at home and did not fight. I will not stop to hear excuses. There is not one word against those who stood out until the bitter end, and stacked muskets at Appomattox.
May 18th. - A feeling of sadness hovers over me now, day and night, which no words of mine can express. There is a chance for plenty of character study in. this Mulberry house, if one only had the heart for it. Colonel Chesnut, now ninety-three, blind and deaf, is apparently as strong as ever, and certainly as resolute of will. Partly patriarch, * * *
390a COL. JAMES CHESNUT, SR.
From a Portrait in Oil by Gilbert Stuart.
391 partly grand seigneur, this old man is of a species that we shall see no more - the last of a race of lordly planters who ruled this Southern world, but now a splendid wreck. His manners are unequaled still, but underneath this smooth exterior lies the grip of a tyrant whose will has never been crossed. I will not attempt what Lord Byron says he could not do, but must quote again: "Everybody knows a gentleman when he sees him. I have never met a man who could describe one." We have had three very distinct specimens of the genus in this house - three generations of gentlemen, each utterly different from the other - father, son, and grandson.
African Scipio walks at Colonel Chesnut's side. He is six feet two, a black Hercules, and as gentle as a dove in all his dealings with the blind old master, who boldly strides forward, striking with his stick to feel where he is going. The Yankees left Scipio unmolested. He told them he was absolutely essential to his old master, and they said, "If you want to stay so bad, he must have been good to you always." Scip says he was silent, for it "made them mad if you praised your master."
Sometimes this old man will stop himself, just as he is going off in a fury, because they try to prevent his attempting some feat impossible in his condition of lost faculties. He will ask gently, "I hope that I never say or do anything unseemly! Sometimes I think I am subject to mental aberrations." At every footfall he calls out, "Who goes there?" If a lady's name is given he uncovers and stands, with hat off, until she pa.s.ses. He still has the old-world art of bowing low and gracefully.
Colonel Chesnut came of a race that would brook no interference with their own sweet will by man, woman, or devil. But then such manners has he, they would clear any man's character, if it needed it. Mrs. Chesnut, his wife, used to tell us that when she met him at Princeton, in the nineties of the eighteenth century, they called him "the * * *
392 Young Prince." He and Mr. John Taylor,1 of Columbia, were the first up-country youths whose parents were wealthy enough to send them off to college.
When a college was established in South Carolina, Colonel John Chesnut, the father of the aforesaid Young Prince, was on the first board of trustees. Indeed, I may say that, since the Revolution of 1776, there has been no convocation of the notables of South Carolina, in times of peace anti prosperity, or of war and adversity, in which a representative man of this family has not appeared. The estate has been kept together until now. Mrs. Chesnut said she drove down from Philadelphia on her bridal trip, in a chariot and four - a cream-colored chariot with outriders.
They have a saying here-on account of the large families with which people are usually blessed, and the subdivision of property consequent upon that fact, besides the tendency of one generation to make and to save, and the next to idle and to squander, that there are rarely more than three generations between s.h.i.+rt-sleeves and s.h.i.+rt-sleeves. But these Chesnuts have secured four, from the John Chesnut who was driven out from his father's farm in Virginia by the French and Indians, when that father had been killed at Fort Duquesne,2 to the John Chesnut who saunters 1. John Taylor was graduated from Princeton in 1790 and became a planter in South Carolina. He served in Congress from 1806 to 1810, and in the latter year was chosen to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate, caused by the resignation of Thomas Sumter. In 1826 he was chosen Governor of South Carolina. He died in 1832.
2. Fort Duquesne stood at the junction of the Monongahela and Alleghany Rivers. Captain Trent, acting for the Ohio Company, with some Virginia militiamen, began to build this fort in February, 1754. On April 17th of the same year, 700 Canadians and French forced him to abandon the work. The French then completed the fortress and named it Fort Duquesne. The unfortunate expedition of General Braddock, in the summer of 1755, was an attempt to retake the fort, Braddock's defeat occurring eight miles east of it. In 1758 General Forbes marched westward from Philadelphia and secured possession of the place, after the French, alarmed at his approach, had burned it. Forbes gave it the name of Pittsburg.
393 along here now, the very perfection of a lazy gentleman, who cares not to move unless it be for a fight, a dance, or a fox-hunt.
The first comer of that name to this State was a lad when he arrived after leaving his land in Virginia; and being without fortune otherwise, he went into Joseph Kershaw's grocery shop as a clerk, and the Kershaws, I think, so remember that fact that they have it on their coat-of-arms. Our Johnny, as he was driving me down to Mulberry yesterday, declared himself delighted with the fact that the present Joseph Kershaw had so distinguished himself in our war, that they might let the shop of a hundred years ago rest for a while. "Upon my soul," cried the cool captain, "I have a desire to go in there and look at the Kershaw tombstones. I am sure they have put it on their marble tablets that we had an ancestor one day a hundred years ago who was a clerk in their shop." This clerk became a captain in the Revolution.
In the second generation the shop had so far sunk that the John Chesnut of that day refused to let his daughter marry a handsome, dissipated Kershaw, and she, a spoiled beauty, who could not endure to obey orders when they were disagreeable to her, went up to her room and therein remained, never once coming out of it for forty years. Her father let her have her own way in that; he provided servants to wait upon her and every conceivable luxury that she desired, but neither party would give in.
I am, too, thankful that I am an old woman, forty-two my last birthday. There is so little life left in me now to be embittered by this agony. "Nonsense! I am a pauper," says my husband, "and I am as smiling and as comfortable as ever you saw me." "When you have to give up your horses? How then?"
394 May 21st. - They say Governor Magrath has absconded, and that the Yankees have said, "If you have no visible governor, we will send you one." If we had one and they found him, they would clap him in prison instanter.
The negroes have flocked to the Yankee squad which has recently come, but they were snubbed, the rampant freedmen. "Stay where you are," say the Yanks. "We have nothing for you." And they sadly "peruse" their way. Now that they have picked up that word "peruse," they use it in season and out. When we met Mrs. Preston's William we asked, "Where are you going?" "Perusing my way to Columbia," he answered.
When the Yanks said they had no rations for idle negroes, John Walker answered mildly, "This is not at all what we expected." The colored women, dressed in their gaudiest array, carried bouquets to the Yankees, making the day a jubilee. But in this house there is not the slightest change. Every negro has known for months that he or she was free, but I do not see one particle of change in their manner. They are, perhaps, more circ.u.mspect, polite, and quiet, but that is all. Otherwise all goes on in antebellum statu quo. Every day I expect to miss some familiar face, but so far have been disappointed.
Mrs. Huger we found at the hotel here, and we brought her to Bloomsbury. She told us that Jeff Davis was traveling leisurely with his wife twelve miles a day, utterly careless whether he were taken prisoner or not, and that General Hampton had been paroled.
Fighting d.i.c.k Anderson and Stephen Elliott, of Fort Sumter memory, are quite ready to pray for Andy Johnson, and to submit to the powers that be. Not so our belligerent clergy. "Pray for people when I wish they were dead," cries Rev. Mr. Trapier. "No, never! I will pray for President Davis till I die. I will do it to my last gasp. My chief is a prisoner, but I am proud of him still. He is a spectacle to G.o.ds and men. He will bear himself as a soldier, a patriot, * * *
395 a statesman, a Christian gentleman. He is the martyr of our cause." And I replied with my tears.
"Look here: taken in woman's clothes?" asked Mr. Trapier. "Rubbish, stuff, and nonsense. If Jeff Davis has not the pluck of a true man, then there is no courage left on this earth. If he does not die game, I give it up. Something, you see, was due to Lincoln and the Scotch cap that he hid his ugly face with, in that express car, when he rushed through Baltimore in the night. It is that escapade of their man Lincoln that set them on making up the woman's clothes story about Jeff Davis."
Mrs. W. drove up. She, too, is off for New York, to sell four hundred bales of cotton and a square, or something, which pays tremendously in the Central Park region, and to capture and bring home her belle fille, who remained North during the war. She knocked at my door. The day was barely dawning. I was in bed, and as I sprang up, discovered that my old Confederate night-gown had to be managed, it was so full of rents. I am afraid I gave undue attention to the sad condition of my gown, but could nowhere see a shawl to drape my figure.
She was very kind. In case my husband was arrested and needed funds, she offered me some "British securities" and bonds. We were very grateful, but we did not accept the loan of money, which would have been almost the same as a gift, so slim was our chance of repaying it. But it was a generous thought on her part; I own that.
Went to our plantation, the Hermitage, yesterday. Saw no change; not a soul was absent from his or her post. I said, "Good colored folks, when are you going to kick off the traces and be free?" In their furious, emotional way, they swore devotion to us all to their dying day. Just the same, the minute they see an opening to better themselves they will move on. William, my husband's foster-brother, came up. "Well, William, what do you want?" asked my * * *
396 husband. "Only to look at you, marster; it does me good."
June 1st. - The New York Herald quotes General Sherman as saying, "Columbia was burned by Hampton's sheer stupidity." But then who burned everything on the way in Sherman's march to Columbia, and in the line of march Sherman took after leaving Columbia? We came, for three days of travel, over a road that had been laid bare by Sherman's torches. Nothing but smoking ruins was left in Sherman's track. That I saw with my own eyes. No living thing was left, no house for man or beast. They who burned the countryside for a belt of forty miles, did they not also burn the town? To charge that to "Hampton's stupidity" is merely an afterthought. This Herald announces that Jeff Davis will be hanged at once, not so much for treason as for his a.s.sa.s.sination of Lincoln. "Stanton," the Herald says, "has all the papers in his hands to convict him."
The Yankees here say, "The black man must go as the red man has gone; this is a white man's country." The negroes want to run with the hare, but hunt with the hounds. They are charming in their professions to us, but declare that they are to be paid by these blessed Yankees in lands and mules for having been slaves. They were so faithful to us during the war, why should the Yankees reward them, to which the only reply is that it would be by way of punis.h.i.+ng rebels.
Mrs. Adger1 saw a Yankee soldier strike a woman, and she prayed G.o.d to take him in hand according to his deed.
1. Elizabeth K. Adger, wife of the Rev. John B. Adger, D. D., of Charleston, a distinguished Presbyterian divine, at one time a missionary to Smyrna where he translated the Bible into the Armenian tongue. He was afterward and before the war a professor in the Theological Seminary at Columbia. His wife was a woman of unusual judgment and intelligence, sharing her husband's many hards.h.i.+ps and notable experiences in the East.
397 The soldier laughed in her face, swaggered off, stumbled down the steps, and then his revolver went off by the concussion and shot him dead.
The black ball is in motion. Mrs. de Saussure's cook shook the dust off her feet and departed from her kitchen to-day-free, she said. The washerwoman is packing to go.
Scipio Africa.n.u.s, the Colonel's body-servant, is a soldierly looking black creature, fit to have delighted the eyes of old Frederick William of Prussia, who liked giants. We asked him how the Yankees came to leave him. "Oh, I told them marster couldn't do without me nohow; and then I carried them some nice hams that they never could have found, they were hid so good."
Eben dressed himself in his best and went at a run to meet his Yankee deliverers - so he said. At the gate he met a squad coming in. He had adorned himself with his watch and chain, like the cordage of a s.h.i.+p, with a handful of gaudy seals. He knew the Yankees came to rob white people, but he thought they came to save n.i.g.g.e.rs. "Hand over that watch!" they said. Minus his fine watch and chain, Eben returned a sadder and a wiser man. He was soon in his s.h.i.+rt-sleeves, whistling at his knife-board. "Why? You here? Why did you come back so soon?" he was asked. "Well, I thought may be I better stay with ole marster that give me the watch, and not go with them that stole it." The watch was the pride of his life. The iron had entered his soul.
Went up to my old house, "Kamschatka." The Trapiers live there now. In those drawing-rooms where the children played Puss in Boots, where we have so often danced and sung, but never prayed before, Mr. Trapier held his prayer-meeting. I do not think I ever did as much weeping or as bitter in the same s.p.a.ce of time. I let myself go; it did me good. I cried with a will. He prayed that we might have strength to stand up and bear our bitter * * *
398 disappointment, to look on our ruined homes and our desolated country and be strong. And he prayed for the man "we elected to be our ruler and guide." We knew that they had put him in a dungeon and in chains.1 Men watch him day and night. By orders of Andy, the b.l.o.o.d.y-minded tailor, n.o.body above the rank of colonel can take the benefit of the amnesty oath, n.o.body who owns over twenty thousand dollars, or who has a.s.sisted the Confederates. And now, ye rich men, howl, for your misery has come upon you. You are beyond the outlaw, camping outside. Howell Cobb and R. M. T. Hunter have been arrested. Our turn will come next, maybe. A Damocles sword hanging over a house does not conduce to a pleasant life.
June 12th. - Andy, made lord of all by the madman, Booth, says, "Destruction only to the wealthy cla.s.ses." Better teach the negroes to stand alone before you break up all they leaned on, O Yankees! After all, the number who possess over $20,000 are very few.
Andy has shattered some fond hopes. He denounces Northern men who came South to espouse our cause. They may not take the life-giving oath. My husband will remain quietly at home. He has done nothing that he had not a right to do, nor anything that he is ashamed of. He will not fly from his country, nor hide anywhere in it. These are his words. He has a huge volume of Macaulay, which seems to absorb him. Slily I slipped Silvio Pellico in his way. He looked at the t.i.tle and moved it aside. "Oh," said I, "I only wanted you to refresh your memory as to a prisoner's life and what a despotism can do to make its captives happy!"
1. Mr. Davis, while encamped near Irwinsville, Gal, had been captured on May 10th by a body of Federal cavalry under Lieutenant-Colonel Pritchard. He was taken to Fortress Monroe and confined there for two years, his release being effected on May 13, 1867, when he was admitted to bail in the sum of $100,000, the first name on his bail-bond being that of Horace Greeley.
399 Two weddings - in Camden, Ellen Douglas Ancrum to Mr. Lee, engineer and architect, a clever man, which is the best investment now. In Columbia, Sally Hampton and John Cheves Haskell, the bridegroom, a brave, one-armed soldier.
A wedding to be. Lou McCord's. And Mrs. McCord is going about frantically, looking for eggs "to mix and make into wedding-cake," and finding none. She now drives the funniest little one-mule vehicle.
I have been ill since I last wrote in this journal. Serena's letter came. She says they have been visited by bushwhackers, the roughs that always follow in the wake of an army. My sister Kate they forced back against the wall. She had Katie, the baby, in her arms, and Miller, the brave boy, clung to his mother, though he could do no more. They tried to pour brandy down her throat. They knocked Mary down with the b.u.t.t end of a pistol, and Serena they struck with an open hand, leaving the mark on her cheek for weeks.
Mr. Christopher Hampton says in New York people have been simply intoxicated with the fumes of their own glory. Military prowess is a new wrinkle of delight to them. They are mad with pride that, ten to one, they could, after five years' hard fighting, prevail over us, handicapped, as we were, with a majority of aliens, quasi foes, and negro slaves whom they tried to seduce, shut up with us. They pay us the kind of respectful fear the British meted out to Napoleon when they sent him off with Sir Hudson Lowe to St. Helena, the lone rock by the sea, to eat his heart out where he could not alarm them more.
Of course, the Yankees know and say they were too many for us, and yet they would all the same prefer not to try us again. Would Wellington be willing to take the chances of Waterloo once more with Grouchy, Blcher, and all that * * *
400 left to haphazard? Wigfall said to old Cameron1 in 1861, " Then you will a sutler be, and profit shall accrue." Christopher Hampton says that in some inscrutable way in the world North, everybody "has contrived to ama.s.s fabulous wealth by this war."
There are two cla.s.ses of vociferous sufferers in this community: 1. Those who say, "If people would only pay me what they owe me!" 2. Those who say, "If people would only let me alone. I can not pay them. I could stand it if I had anything with which to pay debts."
Now we belong to both cla.s.ses. Heavens! the sums people owe us and will not, or can not, pay, would settle all our debts ten times over and leave us in easy circ.u.mstances for life. But they will not pay. How can they?
We are shut in here, turned with our faces to a dead wall. No mails. A letter is sometimes brought by a man on horseback, traveling through the wilderness made by Sherman. All railroads have been destroyed and the bridges are gone. We are cut off from the world, here to eat out our hearts. Yet from my window I look out on many a gallant youth and maiden fair. The street is crowded and it is a gay sight. Camden is thronged with refugees from the low country, and here they disport themselves. They call the walk in front of Bloomsbury "the Boulevard."
H. Lang tells us that poor Sandhill Milly Trimlin is dead, and that as a witch she had been denied Christian burial. Three times she was buried in consecrated ground in different churchyards, and three times she was dug up by a superst.i.tious horde, who put her out of their holy ground. Where her poor, old, ill-used bones are lying now I do not know. I hope her soul is faring better than her body. She was a good, kind creature. Why supposed to be a witch? That H. Lang could not elucidate.
1. Simon Cameron became Secretary of War in Lincoln's Administration, on March 4, 1861. On January 11, 1862, he resigned and was made Minister to Russia.
401 Everybody in our walk of life gave Milly a helping hand. She was a perfect specimen of the Sandhill "tackey" race, sometimes called "country crackers." Her skin was yellow and leathery, even the whites of her eyes were bilious in color. She was stumpy, strong, and lean, hard-featured, h.o.r.n.y-fisted. Never were people so aided in every way as these Sandhillers. Why do they remain Sandhillers from generation to generation? Why should Milly never have bettered her condition?
My grandmother lent a helping hand to her grandmother. My mother did her best for her mother, and I am sure the so-called witch could never complain of me. As long as I can remember, gangs of these Sandhill women traipsed in with baskets to be filled by charity, ready to carry away anything they could get. All are made on the same pattern, more or less alike. They were treated as friends and neighbors, not as beggars. They were asked in to take seats by the fire, and there they sat for hours, stony-eyed, silent, wearing out human endurance and politeness. But their husbands and sons, whom we never saw, were citizens and voters! When patience was at its last ebb, they would open their mouths and loudly demand whatever they had come to seek.
One called Judy Bradly, a one-eyed virago, who played the fiddle at all the Sandhill dances and fandangoes, made a deep impression on my youthful mind. Her list of requests was always rather long, and once my grandmother grew restive and actually hesitated. "Woman, do you mean to let me starve?" she cried furiously. My grandmother then attempted a meek lecture as to the duty of earning one's bread. Judy squared her arms akimbo and answered, "And pray, who made you a judge of the world? Lord, Lord, if I had 'er knowed I had ter stand all this jaw, I wouldn't a took your ole things," but she did take them and came afterward again and again.
June 27th. - An awful story from Sumter. An old * * *
402 gentleman, who thought his son dead or in a Yankee prison, heard some one try the front door. It was about midnight, and these are squally times. He called out, "What is that?" There came no answer. After a while he heard some one trying to open a window and he fired. The house was shaken by a fall. Then, after a long time of dead silence, he went round the house to see if his shot had done any harm, and found his only son bathed in his own blood on his father's door-step. The son was just back from a Yankee prison - one of his companions said - and had been made deaf by cold and exposure. He did not hear his father hail him. He had tried to get into the house in the same old way he used to employ when a boy.
My sister-in-law in tears of rage and despair, her servants all gone to "a big meeting at Mulberry," though she had made every appeal against their going. "Send them adrift," some one said, "they do not obey you, or serve you; they only live on you." It would break her heart to part with one of them. But that sort of thing will soon right itself. They will go off to better themselves - we have only to cease paying wages - and that is easy, for we have no money.
July 4th. - Sat.u.r.day I was in bed with one of my worst headaches. Occasionally there would come a sob and I thought of my sister insulted and my little sweet Williams. Another of my beautiful Columbia quartette had rough experiences. A raider asked the plucky little girl, Lizzie Hamilton, for a ring which she wore. "You shall not have it," she said. The man put a pistol to her head, saying, "Take it off, hand it to me, or I will blow your brains out." "Blow away," said she. The man laughed and put down his pistol, remarking, "You knew I would not hurt you." "Of course, I knew you dared not shoot me. Even Sherman would not stand that."
There was talk of the negroes where the Yankees had been - negroes who flocked to them and showed them where * * *
402a SARSFIELD, NEAR CAMDEN, S. C.
Built by General Chesnut after the War, and the Home of himself and Mrs. Chesnut until they Died.
From a Recent Photograph.
403 silver and valuables had been hid by the white people. Ladies'-maids dressed themselves in their mistresses' gowns before the owners' faces and walked off. Now, before this every one had told me how kind, faithful, and considerate the negroes had proven. I am sure, after hearing these tales, the fidelity of my own servants s.h.i.+nes out brilliantly. I had taken their conduct too much as a matter of course. In the afternoon I had some business on our place, the Hermitage. John drove me down. Our people were all at home, quiet, orderly, respectful, and at their usual work. In point of fact things looked unchanged. There was nothing to show that any one of them had even seen the Yankees, or knew that there was one in existence.
July 26th. - I do not write often now, not for want of something to say, but from a loathing of all I see and hear, and why dwell upon those things?
Colonel Chesnut, poor old man, is worse - grows more restless. He seems to be wild with "homesickness." He wants to be at Mulberry. When there he can not see the mighty giants of the forest, the huge, old, wide-spreading oaks, but he says he feels that he is there so soon as he hears the carriage rattling across the bridge at the Beaver Dam.
I am reading French with Johnny - anything to keep him quiet. We gave a dinner to his company, the small remnant of them, at Mulberry house. About twenty idle negroes, trained servants, came without leave or license and a.s.sisted. So there was no expense. They gave their time and labor for a good day's feeding. I think they love to be at the old place.
Then I went up to nurse Kate Withers. That lovely girl, barely eighteen, died of typhoid fever. Tanny wanted his sweet little sister to have a dress for Mary Boykin's wedding, where she was to be one of the bridesmaids. So Tanny took his horses, rode one, and led the other thirty miles in the broiling sun to Columbia, where he sold the led horse and came back with a roll of Swiss muslin. As he entered * * *
404 the door, he saw Kate lying there dying. She died praying that she might die. She was weary of earth and wanted to be at peace. I saw her die and saw her put in her coffin. No words of mine can tell how unhappy I am. Six young soldiers, her friends, were her pall-bearers. As they marched out with that burden sad were their faces.
Princess Bright Eyes writes: "Our soldier boys returned, want us to continue our weekly dances." Another maiden fair indites: "Here we have a Yankee garrison. We are told the officers find this the dullest place they were ever in. They want the ladies to get up some amus.e.m.e.nt for them. They also want to get into society."
From Isabella in Columbia: "General Hampton is home again. He looks crushed. How can he be otherwise? His beautiful home is in ruins, and ever present with him must be the memory of the death tragedy which closed forever the eyes of his glorious boy, Preston! Now! there strikes up a serenade to General Ames, the Yankee commander, by a military band, of course. . . . Your last letters have been of the meagerest. What is the matter?"
August 2d. - Dr. Boykin and John Witherspoon were talking of a nation in mourning, of blood poured out like rain on the battle-fields-for what? "Never let me hear that the blood of the brave has been shed in vain! No; it sends a cry down through all time."
A Diary From Dixie Part 22
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