February 16, 1864
Just at home from Father’s where we went on Sunday afternoon. On Monday Sue & I accompanied Father and Mr E to Halifax & for the first time we saw the interior of a Court of Justice. Our business there was to prove Thomas Jones Will, but the lawyer, Mr Bat Moore, deciding that this county possessed no jurisdiction over it, we had our ride for our pains. I think him mistaken (I will talk of War before Hanibal himself, it appears) as my impression is that the Legislature allowed the Will of a citizen of a County within the enemy’s lines to be admitted to probate in any County in the State, but the man learned in the Law thinks it must be an adjoining County to the Yankee lines. I wish Father had placed the business in the hands of some other lawyer than that Unionist Bat Moore! I felt indignant when I saw the paper endorsed in poor Thomas’ hand “To be opened if I never return” in his possession & remember what was his opinion of the Cause in which that young life was offered up.
Whilst the Lawyers were deciding upon the course to be pursued, Sue & I amused ourselves looking around upon the novel scene. The swearing in of the Grand Jury which was going on struck us with particular amusement. I had imagined the administering an oath a solemn thing but I found it instead simply ludicrous — five or six unconcerned indifferent looking men grasped simultaneously the sides & corners of a greasy looking leather bound book whilst a spruce looking clerk gabbled over something the only audible words of which were “so help you God,” & the book then passed from lip to lip & they were sworn jurors; & in place of the solemn silence I had presumed prevailed, everybody was attending to their own business, talking & laughing as they listed. Mr Smith took my affidavit to a conversation I had held in May 1861 with Mrs Van Courtlandt respecting her sentiments toward the North & her intention of making the South her residence, to be used in her behalf in a suit brought by the Confederate States to Confiscate some property she has here as an Alien Enemy. I hope it will be of use to her, for poor Lady, it will be a cruel mortification to her as well as a great injustice should she thus be recorded.
Went to see the Navy Yard and the Gunboat “Albemarle,” our old acquaintance upon whom we waited until dark last summer at Edwards Ferry to see her take her proper element. She is now nearly completed, Engines & Propeller in & will, if the Department at Richmond send on the iron to complete her armour, steam down the river next month. Captain Cook is in command of the station & his energy & decision in getting so much accomplished in so short a time is surprising. We saw some of the famous Brooke Guns, much smaller in the bore than I had supposed. Susy & I made a call on Mrs M’Guire & Mrs Torney & came home in a cold rain which at times seemed determined to become sleet. In the Felton plantation we were met by Tom the Foreman with the news that another of Father’s young negroes had left his work & gone off (I omitted to mention that two had gone off the night before) & that there were two white men with guns hiding in a neighboring Pine thicket. So soon as Mr E reached fathers he made all necessary dispositions for arresting them, dispositions which would have been successful but for the treachery of the foreman Jesse Bartly who, in spite of positive orders to the contrary (whilst Mr E was coming home for his arms), put them across the river, giving as a reason his fear lest “young Master should tell them (the negroes) to fall on the men & take them & that some of them would get shot.” A villain! I hope father will sell him, for he is unworthy of the position of trust he holds.
About dinner time came Col Clarke having walked from Halifax! Mary should be complimented by such an instance of devotion. We had the happiness on Monday to receive a letter from Nora. She is quite well but gives a terrible picture of the state of the country & the oppression under which they live. Band after band of Yankee marauders succeed each other & rob at their pleasure. Their Col, one P — says that “he has a right to take what he pleases, that he is ordered to burn the Mills, destroy provisions, in short make Fayette county a wilderness,” & takes credit to himself for what he has left undone! They enter houses at night & actually strip the covering from the beds in which women & children are lying! It is terrible to think of, the insult & outrage to which she and her children are exposed. As yet, thank God, they have suffered for nothing and are able to hire servants.
Congress has most ungraciously prohibited the importation of Carpets. After begging and beseeching us to take the carpets from our floors & bestow them on the poor soldiers in place of blankets, now to prohibit us from replacing them seems a most ungenerous return for our sacrifice. Tea & Coffee are likewise interdicted. I suppose they wish to reduce us to Spartan simplicity & I shall not be surprised if their much talked “of Currency Bill” should make nails a legal tender in imitation of Lycurgus’ Iron money. President Davis should order a Thanksgiving upon the 22d of Feb, for then the nation is releived of this wretched incubus. If we heed them we shall all dine on Black Broth, that is, all but Congress men & Government officials, for they leave the door open for themselves to dress sumptuously and “to fare daintily every day.”
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