May 23, 1863
Some days since I opened you O my Journal, but I have been busy and preoccupied. On Friday the 15th went to Hascosea, taking the young folks all with us. They had a merry time until Sunday the 17th when they all left. Thomas returns to his Regiment & his wife to her home in Perquimans, for we could not persuade her to remain with us & leave her mother in the enemies lines alone. She gave us a terrible account of the want of faith, the entire disregard of the most solemn oaths, & protestations which our Christian enemies exhibit towards the defenceless inhabitants within their power — tales of murder & outrage at which the heart sickens & the blood revolts. How long O! Lord? — how long will thou permit them thus to lord it over any portion of our country? But Thy will be done!
Patrick & I remained alone at Hascosea on Gardening & farming bent until Wednesday, the 20th when we returned to the plantation & sent for Rachel to come back & finish her visit to us. As we sat in the piazza just at dusk who should come riding up but James Edmondston! His command is ordered to Va & he waits only to load his waggons with corn & see them fairly on the road when he follows. We had a most pleasant & only too short a visit from him. He is in good spirits & quite well again & as usual most affectionate & delighted to see his brother & myself. He speaks most enthusiastically of Gen D H Hill, says that no matter how much one personally may dislike him, yet in action & under fire he commands the admiration & respect of every one. Says he is not to blame for the bad fortune of his campaign around Washington, that he not only was outnumbered but that he was deficient in Artillery of heavy enough calibre to cope with Gen Foster. He blames & regrets as much as we do his unfortunate correspondance with Stanley & Foster in which he is both coarse & weak & laments the idiosyncrasy which makes him thus rush into print. James left us on Saturday at sunrise for Lee’s Army at Fredericksburg, which it is reported is to advance upon Hooker. Troops are being pressed on to him & with the exception of the forces at Wilmington there are but three Brigades left in this State!
Affairs in the South West now engage all our attention. Grant with a column of 100,000 infantry & a large force of cavalry has crossed the Mississippi at Grand Gulf below Vicksburg. He was met by a Confederate force which being too weak to encounter him fell back fighting towards Jackson, Grant pressing on him. We were forced to evacuate the place, at least Gen Pemberton did so, tho some persons contend that it was unnecessary. Of this we cannot judge, but Grant occupied it in force, burned the Government & State property, the State House, the Court House, & committed the most shocking excesses, robbing, stealing, & destroying private property of all kinds. After two days occupation of Jackson, Grant in his turn evacuated it & fell back to Edwards Depot between Vicksburg & Jackson where Pemberton, Loring, & others of our Generals met & repulsed him; but being reinforced from Jackson, we were outnumbered and fell further back to the R R Bride over the Big Black. Loring with a Confederate force was cut off but finally cut his way through with heavy loss to Crystal Spring. In some of these engagements, as yet we know not which, Gen Tilghman was killed. Pemberton entrenced at the Bridge & a battle was expected there at the last advices.
Gen Johnston is collecting an Army, we hope rapidly, to fall on Grant’s rear, but we get only meager Telegraphic Dispatches, & the only thing we certainly know is that Vicksburg is seriously threatened by a heavy force in the rear. They hope to cut off all supplies & invest it both by the River & Land, but Gen Joe Johnston is in there & he is a Tower of Strength. Grant must be a master of strategy to out maneuver him. We wait with eager suspense for news.
At the North Lincoln has entered into a trial of strength with “Free Speech” as personified by Vallandigham. He has been arrested & tried by a Court Martial for a public speech he made at Dayton in which he animadverted against the War & the Government. The sentence of the Court is to a confinement for two years in one of the Government Forts & Burnside, the Christian under whose auspices the Court was held, has named Fort Warren as the place of his imprisonment. The North seems in a ferment, but they talk so much – brag, bluster, & submit, that I suppose it will all effervesce in talk & Mr Lincoln will be allowed to be as despotic as he chooses. What a nation they are! They give up the dearest rights of freemen without a struggle! We must have been as “salt” to them heretofore & that they have preserved a shadow even of independance or liberty is owing to Southern spirit — Southern resistance to tyranny.
To our pleasure we hear that the Abolitionists are blockading the River just above Plymouth, in order to keep the Gun boat which we are building at Edwards Ferry from attacking them. I hope that their barricade will be effectual against themselves also. Yesterday a company of Infantry passed here on their way to the Ferry, with orders to guard it and to picket the River from Norfleet’s to Pollock’s Ferry, so we will be under guard. Heard last night that Lieut Wiggins of the Scotland Neck Riflemen had been killed whilst gallantly heading a charge of his Company on the Blackwater. He was a fine young man, brave, impetuous, impulsive, and high spirited. Patrick thought more highly of him than he did of most of the young men under his command & he commanded my regard essentially for he refused and did [his] utmost to induce others to refuse to sign the request for Mr E to resign when the company, wanting to get rid of Lieut Smith, could think of no other way than to get a new election of all the officers. I feel deeply for his parents who were proud, & justly so, of him.
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). http://nc-historical-publications.stores.yahoo.net/478.html