May 20, 1864
Sunday — Up at Fathers on horseback with Pattie on Friday to see Sue who on that day got back from Petersburg. She is full of the stirring times & the excitement through which she has just past. She tells us that there is no question of the fact that Gen Bragg ordered the evacuation of the town of Petersburg to take effect on 2 o’clock of the last Sunday, today week, but that Beauregard interfered & said “No! No! a thousand times No! it was suicidal to think of it, if they took it it must be through oceans of blood, he would defend it to the last at all extremities.” An Aid with more tongue than discretion told her informant that he had seen the Order countermanding it. Just like Bragg! Mr E says that if we are saved, with Bragg to direct & Robt Ransom to execute, it will be by a miracle. Fighting is of daily, almost hourly, occurrence around Petersburg. Beauregard presses Butler whose headquarters are said to be on the deck of the Greyhound (one of the swiftest steamers the Yankees have) with a full head of steam on. From thence he witnessed the attack on Drury Bluff on Monday, when they endeavoured to take the fortifications in the rear and were so signally repulsed and with so heavy loss by us. In this fight it was that Col Clarke was wounded in the shoulder by a fragment of shell. Numbers of the Yankee wounded were left in our hands & have been brought to Petersburg & cared for in a Hospital there. One of them called out to a negroe attendant, “Kill me, kill me at once, and put me out of pain! I am suffering so horribly. Kill me!” To which the negro gravely answered “I cant do it for you myself, Marster, I am sorry but I can’t do it myself but just let some o dese Souf Callinians know it sah and dey will do it in a minute for you wid pleasure sah”!
Yesterday Sophia & Sue dined with us, but no more news from General Lee & nothing worth recording except a singular discrepancy between our own & the Yankee accounts of the recent military operations. Gen Lee says that he “has repulsed the enemy in every advance.” Grant claims to have driven Lee to his last entrenchment, says he is in full retreat towards Richmond, issues a congratulatory order to his troops, & assumes the Laurel crown with great complacency. Breckenridge claims to have beaten Sigel & to have driven him back to Winchester. The Washington government announce that Sigel it is who has beaten Breckenridge. Morgan reports himself as having repulsed Averill, driven him with severe loss across the New River, with a severe wound in his own marauding head, whilst Washington shouts a paen over the fact of Averill’s actually advancing on Lynchburg. The same is true of Sheridan & his horde, with great loss to ourselves it is true, but still we have done it. We have turned him aside from his “On to Richmond” & made him rejoin his commander, but Washington says he has been successful in his enterprise. Speare was driven pell mell through the country inflicting vast private suffering & destroying two R R Bridges, pursued so closely that he could not pillage as he listed, but he too, Washington tells us, has gained a signal triumph; whilst to crown the whole, Beauregard has Butler hemmed in — in a point of land between the Appomatox and the James which Gilmore is endeavouring to hold at the point of the Spade — when, hey presto! a Yankee paper picked up in one of their abandoned Camps tells the Yankee Nation in an official Dispatch from Maj Gen Butler that he has occupied Petersburg. Was ever the like before known? The Father of Lies has had ample employment for the past fortnight at any rate.
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