August 22, 1864
No mail since the 18th & yesterday came tidings of the cause of the failure which has perplexed us not a little. The enemy have again cut the Petersburg & Weldon R R at Reams’ Station 9 miles from Petersburg. Rumours of a similar disaster to both the Southside & the Danville Road, but we know not how to credit them. God knows how this state of uncertainty & ignorance distresses us! The cutting of the R R is always a preliminary to an advance on Grant’s part. He has been unusually active crossing & recrossing the James as a feint to throw dust into Gen Lee’s eyes, so as to conceal the point of his real attack, & like the cuttle fish muddy the water so as to make good his escape; so the next news (when we get it) will be stirring.
I have fallen into sad idle ways this summer, & in order to correct them take a hint from the Spectator & faithfully record the doings of one day and see how little — how absolutely little, do I effect. The first thing on leaving my chamber on Sat morning was the usual family prayers. Then seizing a stocking I darned a few runs whilst Mr E read the regular no of the Spectator with which we occupy ourselves whilst breakfast is brought in. Breakfast. Peeled a muskmelon & prepared it for pickling, dawdled about, put up a few seeds, & read a sermon on the death of Moses to Patty. Went to the Storeroom with Dolly & ordered dinner & had 2 barrels of flour packed. Darned a little more on Mr E’s stockings. At ½ past 9 father called me to chess — played until 12. Got the Luncheon & cut some water melons for the girls. As it was overcast & pleasant went into the garden, gathered the Musk melons, walked around the Flower Garden, peeped at my grapes, wound up my stroll at the “soltaire” where I had directed Fanny to bring my tea. Read the lessons for the day & did some other little devotional reading. Drank my tea, wrote my Journal, went to the house, arranged the fruit for Dessert, dressed for dinner, dined, talked to Mr E whilst he smoked his cigarrito, chatted with Patty, took up the interminable stocking, darned a little, when father proposed chess. Played for an hour & a half at least, seized the stocking again, put it down to commence Mattie’s straw Hat for her & to teach her how to sew the straw, & as a shower prevented my usual afternoon walk, at the stocking again until near dark. Arranged the waiters for tea with the girls assistance, lit the candles, & superintended the tea table. Ordered breakfast, finished the inevitable pr of socks, darned two pr for myself, went to my room & closed the day with a warm bath & the evening lessons.
Now what a little did I accomplish. True I had more of the servants work to superintend & execute myself on account of its being the midsummer Holidays & I had allowed Betsy & Fanny to go to the dinner at the Plantation & Madame Vinyard’s Confinement threw the stocking darning on me, but what did I that would entitle me to the sensation that “something accomplished — something done had earned a night’s repose”? I must do better for the future.
Vinyard made her appearance in the house today, her child Frances being four weeks old on Sat, so that my labours as a stocking darner are happily at an end. Will I substitute anything as useful in its place? One thing I must arm myself with — a double stock of patience, for Vinyard always a trial will be a double one after her months idleness.
The mail has just come in with details of the engagement of Tuesday at Deep Bottom. At one time the enemy had possession of a mile of our entrenchments, Grant having encassed 40,000 men on one point, but by slowly retreating & keeping a bold front we prevented their further advance until, reinforcements coming up, we drove them from our lines in confusion & with great slaughter. Sad to say we lost Maj Gen Girardy & Brig Gen Chambliss killed, which was not I fear compensated by the loss of their dancing Master Gen Ferero, who cut his last caper at Deep Bottom. Ferero’s death was a gain to them & a corresponding loss to us. Girardy & Chambliss were fine young officers & both leave wives & families of small children to mourn for them.
I referred above to the “Soltaire.” I have never described it. We have had a small house in the garden known to the rest of the world as a tool or root House privately fitted up, as a drawing room. A couch, two chairs, a table for writing, an ink stand, a portfolio, a vase of flowers, a shelf, a few books, & a broom constitute its whole furniture. Here Mr E & myself retire when we wish to be absolutely alone. When I find him in it before me I enter only on suffrance. It is a private place of whose very existence no one but ourselves know of & when we are wearied, out of sorts, or have some thing to do which demands quiet & seclusion we retire there & shut out family cares & with them all the rest of the world. It is so arranged that we can see out without being seen in turn & here have I taken my bible, prayer book, & Journal & with the perfume of sweet flowers around me I can daily read & lift up my heart in gratitude, better I fancy than I can in the house. Here, too, we make little appointments to meet at a certain hour & chat & spend the time at our ease. I come in & find some little evidence that he has been before me, a peach or a pear or a book left open at the page he has been reading, & I go out & leave a memento for him — a Rose, a vase of fresh flowers, a half written letter, & the air of secresy & seclusion with which we invest the time spent there gives it a double zest. It is like “Stolen fruit or bread eaten in secret.”
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