November 9, 1862 [part 2]
Our first destination was the plantation, there to attend to the welfare of our negroes, & next to father’s to give what aid & assistance lay in our power. I packed up our clothing, books—that is our most valuable ones–& made such disposition of them as I deemed proper, getting some things ready to send to Raleigh & Hillsboro, others to remain with us. I was mortified to find that anxiety or sleeplessness had made me really sick, so that if was with difficulty I could eat. This I forced myself to do & with many reproaches to my own weakness went on with my packing. About eleven Mr E went to our neighbor’s Mr Hill’s & found that he had already sent off his family & servants & was preparing to leave for his plantation himself! I packed up Rachel’s things & a bundle for James E, having a good opportunity of sending it on to him; & about two we left Hascosea perhaps forever—as being on the high road between Hill’s Ferry & Weldon (their probable destination), there is little doubt that should they penetrate so far it will fall a victim to their love of plunder & destructions.
I do not tell all I did, for time would fail me, & besides I can never forget it, so will not need this to remind me. Suffice it to say that at Looking Glass we made the best dispositions we could, telling the negroes how to comport themselves & what to do in case of the enemy’s occupation, promising not to leave them, & came here to father, who was most happy to see us.
This was on Wednesday the 5th. Our dispatches, of which we received two every day, have varied from hopeful to despondant ever since. It is needless to record them all. On Thursday Mr E went to Clarksville to attempt to organize a Co for local defence but failed, there being but few there willing to join him. Capt Clements read him a ltter from his siter, Mrs Kinchin Taylor, telling him of the outrages they committed at her house. She said the Zouaves swarmed in like Devils, yelling, whooping, & screaming. Her negro servant, Ness, drew a knife & took his station by her telling them that he would kill the first man who laid a finger upon her. Noble conduct, as all who know how timid the race is generally will admit. They sacked the house, threw everything out of it, breaking every thing that could break & chopping the furniture to pieces! They built a fire out of doors, cut up the corn crop & threw it on it, killed all the fattening Hogs, sheep, cattle, & cows & threw them also into it. They took her carriage & every horse on the premises, telling her that they would have burned the house but that she was in it. She went herself on foot to their headquarters, saw General Foster, the officer in command, & requested that her horses might be returned to her. He looked & spoke so cross that she feared him, but his Aid, to his praise be it spoken, Capt George Anderson of Boston interceded & obtained one horse for her. Her carriage was also returned with the harness cut into bits. He (Capt A), when he saw the desolation & destruction wrought in her house, actually wept! His tears did him credit. I did not think a Yankee capable of it! Let him now only resign the service of such a Government & he may yet do well.
At Mr John Williams they burned his Gin, Screw, & all his cotton and leather. Mr E had this from Mrs Williams herself. What fiends! & what useless barbarity, a barbarity which God will punish! We have been thus anxious ever since, one account encouraging, the next discouraging us, accordingly as they reported favourably or otherwise of their advance.
On Friday the 7th we opened our eyes upon a heavy fall of snow!—the earliest ever known in this climate. I could not enjoy the unusual & brilliant spectacle of the autumn leaves, crimson, yellow, & orange covered with a fleecy Veil. I was too uneasy & fearful lest the snow should raise the River & allow the Gunboats which we heard were aground on Williams bar to get off. On Friday came brother, less despondant at first, it appeared, than usual, but we soon found his calmness partook of the nature of despair. Mr E & himself arranged to go & offer their services to the Comdg-Gen & the Gov as Volunteer Aids & today they left for the head quarters of our Army, now said to number thirteen Regts, but we do not credit it. We suppose an advance is to be made simultaneously with this from Suffolk & look anxiously for news, but as yet none seems to be threatened. Brother has sent to Richmond for Annie, fearing our R R communication may be cut off. I am so sleepy that I will go to bed now & leave the outside news, i.e., news from all but this corner of the Confederacy until tomorrow. Mr E keeps me in better order when he is at home. Were he here I should have been asleep long ago. I am not half done yet.
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
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