March 5, 1864
Saturday — Have had a busy week, having been since Tuesday out at Hascosea gardening. I have used the scissors & prunning knife so much that my hand is actually sore & so disfigured with scratches that it makes me laugh to look at it. Went on Friday to attend to poor Tom’s grave. I had a rustic cross of cedar made for the head stone which will I hope before the summer is over be covered with ivy and had the grave itself covered with ivy, thinking that better than turf. I carried some evergreens but found that they would interfere with the general plan of the Cemetery, so gave them to Mrs Smith to be used at her discretion. I found her there superintending some workmen engaged in preparing the earth for placing a fine collection of evergreens which Mr Cheshire was to bring in the afternoon. Went to see Mrs Spruill, poor woman, & had a rapid canter home & found Mr E engaged in plans for the capture of Cumbo, Hoody Manuel, & some white men who are lurking about Mr. Johnston’s & father’s plantation. Today he had quite a levee in the dining room at Hascosea & came home to Looking Glass “a toute bride” to meet some other (Northampton) men here & tonight he is off posting guards & looking about for them.
We missed several mails whilst out at Hascosea & stirring times indeed has the Confederacy passed through. On the 29th Gen Lee telegraphed from Orange Court House that the enemy’s Cavalry were moving on both his flanks, that one column had gone in the direction of Fredericks’ Hall on the Central Road & the other in that of Charlottsville. On this all the defences available were brought into action. The Richmond Clerks (Government) were called out & measures taken to intercept the marauders, for such only are they to be termed, for their object seemed to be only negroes and horses, their errand to burn & to steal. They divided themselves into several parties, each seeming to vie with the other, Kilpatrick in command, he the prince of theives! But I beg Gen Butler’s pardon! No one can out rank him in that line. One division pursued almost the same route as that taken by the Raiders last summer, through Goochland, past Hanover, & thence across the Pamunky. They burned Mr Morson’s house, barn, & outhouse, sacking & plundering as they listed & then going to his neighbor and brother in law Sec Seddon’s, they burned his barns and provisions, only leaving the residence. One troop came within 2½ miles of Richmond, to the house of Mr John Young, & ordered dinner & there remained for two or three hours, making their band (a fine one) play for them. They were, contrary to the usual custom very polite & did no damage but made fine speeches to the ladies, & apologized for taking the mules & horses Mr Y being from home, fortunately for him, at the time.
This, (Kilpatrick’s) Division, came down to Battery no 9 of the Richmond Defences & threw several shells at long range at it, but none of them came close enough to do any damage save to Mother Earth who received them in [her] bosom — Iron seed which I hope will be repaid with interest by her children! At night Gen Hampton with the 1st N C Cav & a portion of another Regt surprised & drove them from their camp in great confusion; he was too weak to follow, they having 3500 men. This was at Atlee’s Station. Gen H took many prisoners & horses. During Tuesday night one hundred & thirty eight prisoners were brought in representing twelve Regts of Cav. They had beside two Brigades of light Artillery, but it were long to follow the track of each party, the same tale is stamped in the pathway of all. Col Bradley Johnson repulsed them at Hanover. Maj Beckham with his Horse Artillery drove them back when within two miles of Charlottesville.
The account sums up on our side The Insult!! several Mills burned, many negroes, mules, & horses captured, private dwellings burned, provisions destroyed, women & children frightened, Capt Ellery of the Richmond Bat killed, & several men slightly wounded; on theirs — their failure to take Richmond!! between three & four hundred men captured including several officers from Lieut Col down, two or three hundred killed, & many severely wounded & left at houses on the way, several peices of field artillery, many mules & horses, eighty or a hundred horse accoutrements, McClellan saddles, etc., captured, their horses thoroughly jaded & broken down so that they are unfit for service, & their men (mostly Dutch) demoralized & dispersed. So say Journal, on whose side is the balance?
Gen Finnegans’ victory in Florida appears much more important than we had supposed. It seems it was intended by the Yankees to take possession of the State or such portion of it as should enable them to claim that it cast its vote for them in the Presidential Election. They landed at Jacksonville & came on unmolested to Ocean Ponds (on old maps called Alligator) where Finnegan met them with a small body of Georgians & Floridians, about one third their own number. They put two Regts of Black troops in their van, driving them on at the point of the bayonette. They were met by the 19th Georg. & the slaughter was terrific; carnage such as even this bloody war has rarely witnessed. As we advanced they retreated & for miles the earth was strewed with dead negroes. Then came the whites — & spite of their immense odds — 10,000 to 3,500 — so dreadful was the onslaught that they broke & fled. There was more dead on the field than Confederates in action. We lost sixty only killed & between six and seven hundred wounded mostly, however, slightly so, the negroes shooting wild & the Yankees occupied hiding behind & driving them on. At the last accounts the scattered remnants of the Yankee force was running to their “Gun Boats.” Sherman’s late advance upon Polk’s lines seems to have been intended as a ruse to draw troops from Johnston. A heavy advance has been made from Chattanooga upon Dalton & from all that we can learn from prisoners & Yankee papers Johnston was expected to “fall back,” but he did not come up to their expectations, when Grant not wishing to bring on a general engagement “fell back” — disappointed himself. Long-street is making some movements in West Tennessee which the papers grow eloquent in entreating us not to despond at. “It all means well, tho he seems to retire,” may-be-so, but we will wait until we learn more. The seige of Charleston flags & the Yankee Press is sick of it & says it ought to be abandoned “Le jeu ne vaut pas la chandelle.” They now pronounce their famous “Greek Fire” a humbug, “attended with more danger to the projectors than to the projected against.” No wisdom like that gained by experience, O most sapient Yankee nation.
Mosby has performed a brilliant exploit; promotion, it seems, has not spoiled him. He attacked a body of the enemy one hundred & eighty strong, routed them, killing fifteen, wounding many more, capturing seventy with horses, arms, equipments, etc., with a loss to himself of one killed, 4 slightly wounded; & on the 26th near Upperville with 60 men he attacked 250 of the enemy’s Cavalry who retreated before him leaving six (one Captain) dead on the field and one Lieut & seven Privates in Mosby’s hands. The number of their wounded was so great that they impressed waggons to carry them & the road was strewn with equipments, arms, Haversacks, etc. His own loss, two wounded. but I preserve Gen Stuarts official dispatch D.
Whilst in the garden at Hascosea clipping & prunning on Tuesday or Wednesday, suddenly came through the still air the boom of cannon. Conjectures were vain, but in due course of time came the tidings that we were attacking a Gunboat on the Chowan & that after disabling we were proceeding to take possession when three more came to the rescue & tho we kept up the action injuring more of them, yet were eventually forced to retire. Ransom’s Brigade it was in action. Col Clarke was I suppose there.
Today March the 5th the first Peach bloom (the Honey Peach) expanded at Hascosea & driving home I found the Plums also struggling into blossom. Am quite excited by a new method of sticking evergreen cuttings, given me by Mrs Smith yesterday, i. e., in Peat, black wet sour looking stuff. I should think it would need all the lime in the Confederacy to make it available for the purposes of vegetation, but she showed me the results & I came home with a handful of rare & choice cuttings which she gave me & put them down according to her instructions, choosing a Northern exposure & building a shelter of Pine bushes over them & next fall ‘nous verrons.’ Chatted with Mr E of my Arboretum which, when the war is over and nails are cheap so that I can enclose it, I am going to have. I do not think I will admit a deciduous tree & but few shrubs. Tho Mad de Stael does call Evergreen the “devil de la nature,” I like them. Have had the girls to dine with me twice, once here on Monday & again on Wednesday at Hascosea, and am as busy as these thorn pricked fingers will let me be netting them some fancy nets for their hair. Nannie is well informed, pleasant & lady like, has a good address & does her parents much credit. But I am sleepy, near twelve o’clock & no Mr E. I wish the Yankees had old Hoody Manuel, & Cumbo, too, for that matter.
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