July 11, 1864
On Friday as we were sitting down to dinner came Major Smith, now of the Commissary Depart, formerly our commission merchant in Norfolk. Commission merchant! Ah! what a reminiscence of Peace! of “Bills of Lading,” “Accounts of sales,” of the “shipment of goods as per invoice” — when we had something to sell & were able to spend our income as we listed. Now how changed! His occupation gone, he now caters for the necessaries of life for soldiers instead of supplying civilians with the superfluities. But God’s will be done! He brought news of a furious bombardment of Petersburg which will in all probability result in the destruction of the place. Two Iron foundries have been already destroyed & many private dwellings injured. Early’s corps occupy Winchester & Harper’s Ferry & Lincoln has recalled Burnside to the defence of Washington. Grant has contracted his lines, withdrawn his left further from the Weldon R R, either in consequence of his weakened force or the signal defeat of Kautz & his army of theives. They, I am happy to say, are completely demoralized & dispersed with the loss of 3000 horses captured by us (whilst their march is marked by the carcases of others shot by them to prevent their falling into our hands); a train of Army Wagons laden with plunder, 20 peices of elegant light artillery, amunition, baggage, and small arms too tedious to mention. Our prisoners amount already to more than 2000, whilst squads of them a[re] being daily brought in by our cavalry & the citizens along their route. The excesses committed by them exceeds beleif.
The Examiner, in an article urging our authorities to treat them as felons & proving that they are not entitled to the privileges of prisoners of War, says “For the present we only speak of the comparatively paltry affair of merely stealing or destroying property. But we all know that there is far blacker crime than this calling aloud for vengeance on the miscreants. From many a fair & once peaceful county of our State rises one long wild wail — the shrieks of violated women gone crazy with despair & shame seem to load the air, & to demand of earth & heaven the base blood of their ravishers. Grey haired old men & women driven insane by rage & terror have died with maniac yells or idiot drivellings.” The details are horrible — too much so to be even thought on, far less expressed, & yet men captured in the commission of such enormities claim the immunity due to prisoners of war. The paper goes on to say “In short the matter is not capable of argument: marauding or pillage & outrage inflicted on noncombattants is not war & those who practice it cannot be considered prisoners of war, but enemies of the human race to be extirpated without delay.”
If we have any delicate squeamishness on this point our enemies have none, as Gen Morgan knows to his cost. When he went raiding last year in Ohio (tho not as they are now doing in Va) they treated him as a horse stealer & penitentiary convict. . . . Morgan’s men destroyed only public property & took such horses & forage as were needful to his progress but never insulted women nor pillaged houses of plate & money. Recently in Kentucky Gen Burbridge refused to receive a Flag of Truce from Morgan, seized two officers who bore it, & sent the captured & paroled Yankee Gen Hobson, who accompanied them, back to his command & all because he was not engaged as Burbridge maintained in legitimate warfare! All of the scoundrels, officers & privates, recently captured had stolen silver about them & there were waggon loads of Ladies clothing, elegant chemises, dresses, & female paraphanalia of all kinds. Their wounds were all bandaged with female underclothing torn into strips. A train of carriages a mile long & more the 2000 negroes were also taken. I preserve accounts of their outrages — both in Va and Northern Georgia in my repertory.
The sufferings of our fellow citizens exceed beleif. Maj Smith told us that when recently in Georgia he saw a shed 100 ft long knocked up with rough boards & divided into compartments like oxstalls inhabited by Missippians driven from their homes by Sherman, the infamous. He told me, too, that an old school mate of mine, Mrs Bonsal of Norfolk, had taken refuge near Williamsburg from the severity of Yankee rule in Norfolk, that such was the closeness with which she was watched by the theives intent only on plunder that she was forced to secrete a peice of Bacon & some meal in her bed, cook it by stealth, conceal it about her person, & take her children aside privately and give it to them; otherwise it would be snatched from their hands by these brutes in human shape. One of her children died & with her own hands she made its coffin & buried it. Mr Carter of Shirley was forced to do the same thing a few weeks since when he had the misfortune to loose his wife. He has since been sent off a prisoner to some Northern pest house. The amount of misery endured by private citizens — noncombattants, who in all civilized warfare are exposed only to the unavoidable hardships incident to an upturned and unsettled country, exceeds beleif. The Yankee nation can never wipe out the stigma which this war has left upon them. It is indelible. Chase, their Secretary of State, has resigned. Apparently he has no desire “to be in at the death.”
In Northern Georgia Gen Johnston has fallen back from Kenesaw Mt to avoid a flank movement of Sherman’s & the enemy have occupied Marietta, which we have evacuated. Our movement was skillfully executed & we lost nothing but the ground. As yet we hope to retain Atlanta, but Gen Johnston is weak. He, however, handles the few men he has with masterly ability, keeps at bay a largely superior force, & inflicts terrible damage upon Sherman, whilst Forest harrasses his rear, cuts off supplies, & throws trains off the track in a manner which proves him a master of that style of warfare.
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