June 12, 1863
News! still glorious news from the South West! Vicksburg holds out! Port Hudson is releived, Sherman dead, & Kirby Smith has taken & holds Milliken’s Bend which commands the Mississippi above the Yazoo & can consequently prevent Grant from receiving supplies or reinforcements from Memphis, which is, since the capture of Haines Bluff by Admiral Porter, his base line. Glorious news if true & there seems no reason to doubt it. Grant has sent to Hurlbut at Memphis to have 30,000 beds ready for the wounded & to send him the same no., thirty thousand, re-inforcements. Hurlbut says he has not the troops, but a large detachment, some say an Army Corps, has left Rosencrans & is en route for Vicksburg. I hope Kirby Smith will demand their passes at Milliken’s Bend! But thirty thousand wounded! We estimated Grant’s loss, killed, wounded, & prisoners at 40,000, that is, the letter writer’s did, but one & all we considered it exagerated. A comparison of their own data, however, the no at which they themselves have arrived makes it 50,000! Good God what slaughter! No wonder they refused to march up to the “slaughter pen” again. No wonder that they hailed “spades” as they did! Grant is advancing regularly by paralels, the first being five hundred yards from our outer works. A cavalry force under one Jackson has cut its way into Vicksburg, which must be a great encouragement to the garrison. God be with & strengthen them! How many hopes and fears hang now on those gallant men! If Pemberton holds out I shall be almost inclined to forgive him his Abolition birth.
On the Potomac, after a pause since the battle of Chancellorsville, Hooker seems to be bestirring himself. Unusual activity has been observed amongst his army for some days, fortifying the upper fords to prevent Gen Lee from crossing on his aggressive movement, but until Tuesday last no news of an advance on his side.
On that day, however, the papers announced that he had thrown a Brigade over at Deep Run below Hamilton. Crossing, they advanced upon our troops stationed there, but at the first shout as our men rose from their ambush, they fled precipitately, not even coming within musket shot of us, where upon they commenced entrenching & are still at it, tho’ why Gen Lee allows it, he knows best. He must have some most excellent reason, a reason which in the end we will all admit.
Wednesday’s paper contained to our surprise a dispatch from Gen Lee to the War Department — as follows — “The enemy crossed the Rappahanock this morning at five A. M. at the various fords from Beverly’s to Kelly’s with a large force of cavalry accompanied by infantry & artillery. After a severe contest until five P M General Stuart drove them across the River” — signed R E Lee. Further news of the next day, Thursday the 11th, tells us that to our mortification it was at first a surprise, in which the enemy got the best of it, but our men rallying on the re-inforcements recovered everything but the prisoners & horses which were immediately hurried over the river.
The enemy numbered about 10,000 Cavalry besides infantry & artillery. They surprized two of our Regiments at breakfast, the horses grazing, the men unarmed. Three companies of the third & one of the first Virginia were captured & about 600 horses and some horse artillery. They then fell on Jones Brigade which was in the act of forming, guns & pistols not loaded. Taking them thus at an advantage our line was peirced, & broken & they pushed on to Brandy station where was Gen Stuart’s headquarters. This & the station they captured. Our men recovering came forward & threw themselves sabre in hand on the enemy & they in turn were driven back with the loss of many prisoners & a battery, we recapturing our guns but not our prisoners. The fight fluctuated through the day & was the severest Cavalry engagement of the war & one where sabres were more freely used than ever before. We lost many men from their sharpshooters posted in the woods. Our killed & wounded number several hundred it is feared & we lose about two hundred taken prisoner. We, however, have now in Richmond three hundred & two of their men whilst more are known to be on the road. Of their dead & wounded we can form no estimate as they were carried across the River. Victory, however, finally settled decisively in our favor & they were driven back to the Rappahanock which they recrossed.
Amongst the killed is Lieut Col Hampton – of South Carolina, a gentleman and a gallant officer, one drop of whose blood is worth a regiment of our opponents. Of Revolutionary descent, polished manners, high education, refined, & elegant in his tastes, his loss is one which his country will long feel. He has occupied a high post in the world of fashion also, & the news of his death will send a thrill of triumph through many a Northern breast whom he has out shown in the drawing room but who never dreamed of measuring swords with him on the field — & this man died by the hand of a vile mercenary! The ways of Providence are indeed inscrutable.
Col Sol Williams of the 2d North Carolina Cavalry is also killed & his body is now in Richmond. This is the Regiment which at one time it was thought that the Gov would place under Patrick’s command & which brother said was not given to him, tho his name was mentioned in high terms to the Gov in connection with it, because of his want of political influence. I remember I was a little disappointed & how blind and short sighted I am! What anguish, what misery, has my heavenly Father spared me! When will I learn to trust all to Him who knows what is for my best, to repine at nothing which comes from His Almighty hand? God forgive me & increase my faith.
Col Butler of S C had his foot shot off and Gen W. H. F. Lee received a severe sabre cut in the thigh. He is a son of the Comdg General. We had three Brigades engaged — Hampton’s, Lee’s, & Jones. The battle is known as that at Brandy Station. The enemy seem to be improving in their Cavalry management. I suppose they are learning how to ride, a pity for us, for all our best horses are exhaused, victims to bad management & no forage. I wish that the spirits of all those who have perished through Maj Gen French’s dunder headed ignorance, folly, & indifference could come back & neigh out their complaints around him. With Macbeth he would “Sleep no more“!
Was very busy all day yesterday copying Receipts. Such nice ones! “Chocolate puddings,” “Soup a la Reine,” “French Ratafia,” etc., etc., which I have been years in collecting but never found it convenient to put in my book until now. I was not at all like a man I have read of somewhere who when he had a poor dinner took a Recipt Book & read to his assembled family the most tempting and appetizing Receipts which he could find until in a short time, so strong was his imagination that he convinced not only himself but them that they had dined sumptuously! I was not all so, for I longed for sugar, oranges, almonds, & what not to realize for Mr E & myself some of the dainties of which I wrote.
Patrick has been reading me the new poem Tanhauser & even the magic of his reading, the modulation of his voice, cannot yet convince me that it is “good.” There are fine lines in fine thoughts & well turned, but it does not to me rise above the mediocre. One feels ready to exclaim with old Seldon, “Tis ridiculous for a Lord to print verses — tis well enough to make them to please himself but to make them public is foolish. If a man in a private chamber twirls his Band strings or play with a rush to please himself ‘tis well enough; but if he should go into Fleet St & sit upon a stall & twirl a Band string or play with a Rush — then all the boys in the Street would laugh at him.” And so it is with these two Lordlings young Bulwer & Julian Fane son of the Earl of Westmoreland. Their Poem is pure, refined, & has some beautiful & graceful lines in it, but it lacks power. The true Promethean spark is wanting & were it not for the position they will hold both in the world of fashion & letters (for a corner of Bulwer’s mantle must descend upon his son) I do not think that five years hence it would be remembered.
Ah! Mrs Edmondston, Mrs Edmondston, sour grapes! sour grapes! You feel that it is better than you can do. Yes! but I do not “twirl a rush — or play with my band strings” in Fleet St. They do & I am at liberty to laugh. I am trying, too, to read Victor Hugo’s “Fantine,” the first part of Les Miserables, but it is uphill work — Coarse, radical, & unprincipled — all the faults & sins of human nature are put on the head of an impersonal scapegoat called “Society” who bears them to all appearance with as much sang froid as the veritable scapegoat of the Israelites of yore did the sins of the congregation.
Were it not that Mr Hill has been at some trouble to get it & has paid me the compliment of lending it to me for a first reading & will of course ask me for my opinion of it, I should throw it aside in disgust. With all its other faults, it is not even natural, over drawn & dramatic. I cannot interest myself in the adventures of an ignorant convict & a Parisian grisette who, one sees at a glance, will soon fall lower yet. “The Surpries,” where the three lovers desert their mistresses is coarse, brutal, & worse than all — vulgar. Vulgar! — am I wrong to recoil so from that? I fear vulgarity revolts me more than wickedness & that I know is not right. Wickedness I can pity & pray for, but vulgarity! faugh! After thinking even of Fantine my mind flies back with pleasure, as to a verdant spot, to Tanhauser. That is pure, refined, & the work of a gentleman. He does not deify impurity & excuse it because it is the fault of Society & yet I warrant that he would be as gentle with the repentant sinner & do more to reform her than ever the sentimental apologist who wrote Fantine from a pair of moral stilts would do. Eugene Sue is a Radical, a Red Republican, and admirer of the French Revolution & had his impossible theories full sways, Heaven would blush at the spectacle presented to it. But it is time to stop & yet I have something more to say, but I will for once deny myself the pleasure of chatting with you O Journal.
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