August 10, 1862
Yesterday came an order from Lieut Col Morehead, by authority of Maj Gen Hill, ordering under pain of impressment 500 negroes from this section to work on some defences or other, the officer believed about Petersburg. It is most rash, ill considered, and, as it is arranged, oppressive & unequal. There are negroes enough on James River whom their owners would be glad to employ & keep from the domination of the Yankees—negroes whom they fear will go over to them. Thousands below us in Martin and Bertie are in the same condition. Why not then take them & leave these here in this comparative peaceful country alone until their crops are laid by & a provision for the future ensured. To remove forty hands now from Father’s and Mr E’s crops is to destroy it, for in consequence of the Freshet it is late this year. I know not what we shall do.
Bad news from the South West. The Steam Ram Arkansas came out from Vicksburg to assist in an attack on Baton Rouge, but a piece of timber becoming entangled in her propeller, she was disabled and in this state was attacked by five Federal Gun boats. After an unequal contest, the Lieut in command seeing that her capture was inevitable, she being unable either to escape or to attack them, lying helpless in the water, blew her up, the crew escaping to the shore. For want of her we were unable to take Baton Rouge, tho we drove the enemy into the citadel & swept the streets but for want of water we compelled to retire one and a half miles. A renewal of the attack expected—loss of life great on both sides. No officers were taken prisoners now. All dressed as privates with nothing to mark their rank. A Yankee trick to prevent the execution of Mr Davis scheme of retaliation upon the officers of Pope’s command. He will be forced to extend it.
Skirmishing at Malvern Hill which has been alternately for the last few days in ours & the enemy possession, both parties having retired and again advanced. The weather intensely hot. For five days now the heat has been excessive. Our army must suffer terribly. I hope the Yankees will have the full benefit of it. Our prisoners lately in the enemies hands are arriving. Their suffering has been great. We have released many thousand of theirs, but in all negotiations they will be sure to get the better of us. Punic faith may henceforth give way to Yankee craft as a by word for deceit. They retain about four hundred of our men on the pretense that they have taken the oath of Allegiance to their Government. I hope that we will keep the same number.
On Friday came Mr Ed Hill to see whether Mr E would take Command of a Battalion of Partisan Rangers to be organized. Of course pending Gen Hill’s answer he can say nothing. Decided he would not object if the first should fail.
Source: Edmondston, Catherine Ann Devereux, 1823-1875, Journal of a Secesh Lady: The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston 1860-1866. Crabtree, Beth G and Patton, James W., (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1979).