July 14, 1864
Today came the first mail which we have had from Richmond for three weeks & a day! The mail bag was “a sight for sair ‘een” with its late lean sides puffed out with the accumulated issues of three dailies & several weekly newspapers besides letters and pamphlets. The assembled family sat down & such reading, talking, comparing of notes, & “did you see this?” “listen here,” “could you beleive it,” & “well! we have been out of the world, just think of this, & we never to have heard it.” Sometime two reading at the same time made a pleasant Bable which will not soon be forgotten. In the midst of it who should come in but Mr Dunlop of Petersburg! & the budget of news brought by him added to the overwhelming accumulations of the past three weeks have well nigh bewildered me.
In the first place Early is in Maryland! He has gained a signal victory at Monocacy Crk, cut the communication between Washington & Baltimore & thrown both cities into a panic. Hagerstown in flames behind him. He has orders to spare nothing which can sustain or support our army & it is hoped that permission to retaliate some little of the horrors endured by us has been given him. Lincoln clamours for more troops; 100 days men are being rapidly pressed on from New York & New England. Yankee accounts say that Early captured supplies at Martinsburg sufficient for a campaign. Sigel is reported killed, but that is, too, bad news for us. Rather let him live to blunder a little longer. New York is in a ferment — a quarrel between the civil and Military authorities. It seems that the suppression of the Journal of Commerce & the World mentioned sometime ago was by order of Gen Dix, whereupon a civil process was entered upon by the proprietors of the papers & Maj Gen Dix summoned into Court, which summons he refused to obey, alleging his responsibility to a Military court alone, whereon Gov Seymour declared that the supremacy of the Law should & would be asserted & called out 200,000 militia to compel the recreant Gen to admit the jurisdiction of the Civil Arm. There the matter stands.
Vallandigham remains unmolested at Dayton, makes speeches as he lists, & openly defies Mr Lincoln to meddle with him. But the saddest part of the news to us is the treatment our people in Va have met with from the hands of these bands of scoundrels under Sheridan, Kautz, Wilson, & Hunter. Butler sent out a foraging party into the Northern Neck, Negroes under a white officer. Details of the outrage of twenty five ladies by that band alone have been filed in Richmond! One was! — but my pen shrinks from the recital. Many are dead & some with a far less happy fate live shreiking maniacs or sunk in hopeless misery. Hunter’s men were, if any, only a little behind in the commission of such deeds. From the Valley & about Lynchburg the recital of his brutalities would make a fiend blush. The papers are filled with letters from women of refinement & education detailing treatment which they have received themselves & hinting at conduct to others, in their knoledge, too dreadful to be written. Robbery, murder, & plunder is so common that it almost ceases to excite remark. The papers are filled with advertisements of stolen property, negroes, books, silver, & clothing recaptured by Hampton & Fitz Hugh Lee from the infamous wretches. The names & marks on a quantity of silver taken in Wilson’s own private ambulance are given, & the owners requested to come forward & claim it, & notices of coupons, certificates of stock, registered Bonds, notes, evidences of indebtednesses, etc., stolen by them are so common that we scarcely notice them. Whilst one reads the catalogue of horrors it seems more like a recital of the conduct of the Sepoys in India than that of a nation nominally at least Christian!
Sad to relate the Alabama, our pride & our hope has been sunk off Cherburgh by the Kearseage, a Yankee sloop of War. The A. was just in from a long cruise, was not in fighting trim, & it seems an excess of gallantry in her to go out & attack her well appointed adversary, but there are intimations that she was only allowed three days provision by the hospitable French & I suppose Semmes knew that a battle was inevitable, so he put on all steam & tho far inferior to the Yankee both in the power of his machinery and the calibre of his guns, entered with spirit into the unequal contest. His men fought until the water ran into the muzzles of their guns! & even after all hope was over refused to allow the Flag to be struck, determining to go down rather than be captured & Capt Semmes was forced to draw his Revolver & insist on his order to lower the flag being obeyed. The gallant Yankee fired five times upon her whilst the White flag was waving at her peak! As she went down her men sprang overboard & were rescued by the boats of the Kerseage & those of an English yatch, the Deer Hound, belonging to Mr John Lancaster who on seeing the Alabama steam out of Port followed her to see the engagement. Semmes was picked up by one of her boats, concealed underneath some sails in the bottom of the boat, & with eleven other officers & some of the men safely landed at Southampton. Not a vestige of the Alabama fell into the hands of the Victors! Everything went down & she has left only her fame behind her. Not a vestige did I say? I mistake. She has left an ugly remembrance in the shape of an unexploded five inch shell which passed through the stern posts of the Kerseage & lies a sleeping Lion amongst her timbers not to be disturbed [illegible] great risk of destroying his bed. So we may yet hear of the revenge of the Alabama. Like Sampson she may yet crush her enemy. Semmes is already taking steps to get a new & better vessel in England & we may soon hear of him as a further scourge to Yankee commerce.
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