January 27, 1862
I am sorry that I intermitted the practice of keeping a Diary! This year of all the years of my past life I ought to have been most faithful in keeping my Record, for it is not, I hope, probable that I shall never pass through so stirring a time again; and so I who have all my life been sighing for something to write about and who have burnt up so many Diaries, because on a re perusal I have found them hopelessly inane & insipid, have like the woman in the Fairy tale who lost her chance of Wealth & honour by an indiscreet wish for a “yard of Black Pudding,” lost the desire of my heart not by a silly gratification of my palate but from mere inattention to my own wishes. There is the less excuse for me too, for if I remember rightly I left off in July not long before the Battle of Manassas when life was as full of incident as a pudding of Plums. Heigh ho! It is no use lamenting it, but as we are just entering on a New Year I will try & be more punctual and as I faithfully recorded the gradual steps by which we were led into War I will now, I hope, have the agreeable task of tracing our way out to the glorious goal Peace, even tho I lost a portion—may it be a large one—of the progress of the War itself. I am inRaleigh, but I had better retrace a little so as to commence with the first of the year.
The 1st of Jan found us with War staring us directly in the face! War, obstinate, bloody & cruel, brought to our very hearthstones! But blessed be God, our hearts are still strong and we shall yet prevail, even tho all hopes of Foreign aid are put to an end by the rendition of Messrs Mason &Slidell. Patrick and I lived almost as usual, as “in piping times of Peace,” disturbed, however, with a terrible sense of insecurity on my part as to how long it would last, he chafing terribly at inaction and mentally turning over every stone by which he thought he possibly could get into active service, but as the Secretary was organizing no more troops, acting in fact as tho Peace was a “fait accompli,” there was nothing for it but “to bide his time” with what patience he might.
Since the middle of Dec we had heard continual rumours, in fact read in our papers minute accounts of a magnificent Armada which was being fitted out in the Northern cities, destined for some point on the Southern Coast. It was to rendezvous at Fortress Monro under the command of Gen Burnside. Some maintained that it was to reinforce Gen Sherman at Port Royal, others that it was aimed atSavannah. Others again sent it to N O orMobile, but the best informed & sagacious contended that it was destined for the Coast ofN Carolinawith the intention of takingNorfolkin the rear. Where the blow was to fall none knew, but all sat expectant.
We had, as I said before, fallen into our usual habits—we read, rode, talked & walked together as usual—when on the night of the 17th of Jan, on coming in from a visit in Hascosea, Mr. E found a letter from brother awaiting him, telling him that authentic information had been received in Raleigh telling the Governor that the Fleet was intended to attack Roanoke Island; that in the event of its landing the Governor would order out the militia, 10,000 strong under the command of Gen Martin; that he (Brother) had volunteered Mr E’s services on Gen Martin’s Staff (Brother himself, already being a member of it with the rank & pay of major); that he must come up without delay and tender his services in person and winding up by urging him to bring me up with him to remain with Margaret during their joint absences.
Mr E. lost not a moment, but hastily making his preparations for an indefinite absence from home, the next afternoon saw us on our road to Raleigh, where we arrived on Sunday the 19th of January.
We found all well & much surprised at the rapidity of our motions. Margaret had a sweet little infant about a fortnight old, the rest of the children as lovely and as attractive as ever. Nelly, the most delightful little girl I have ever seen—that child always seems so happy to see one—has so affectionate and child like way of envincing her pleasure in your society that she goes direct to your heart.
On Monday Mr E waited on Gen Martin & renewed the offer of his services which were accepted.
The weather which had been for some days bad, foggy and disagreeable, now to our great thankfulness became worse, terrible in fact—Rain, Wind, & Fog, by turns & sometimes all three together. Earnestly did we wish that Gen Burnside might have the full benefit of it, & no one remarked on it without an expression of thankfulness, but still no authentic accounts of him save that he was supposed to be at Hatteras Inlet.
On Wednesday I went up toHillsboroto see Sophia & found her fairly taken to her bed, having fretted herself almost sick with the thousand rumours which represented Burnside as landing at New Berne where her husband was stationed with his Company. Sister Frances & I cheered her up as we best could & next day came down again in spite of the weather which was desperate. It rained, snowed, sleeted, hailed & blew by turns & sometimes did all together, but as Burnside was getting it, we took it with greater equanimity.
Sophia is much afflicted at the death of her little girl & her husband being absent she broods over her grief too much. She will I hope be more cheerful soon.
Friday the weather was but little better. “No news,” was the answer to our anxious inquiries each day. It even began to be douted that the fleet seen at Hatteras was Burnside’s at all, many contending that it was only transient vessels put in for shelter, that Burnside had passed down the Coast, treated us in fact as the Ghost that frequented Lincoln’s Inn did that dingy abode when reminded by the student that he was free to roam at will & inhabit King’s Palaces if it so pleased him whereupon the Ghost made a polite bow, thanked him for the suggestion, & was never afterwards seen in that locality. Ah Mr Burnside, we like well to be treated with the same neglect. Go to the orange groves of the South, where cotton & Contrabands abound; and, if you can, revel in their abundance.
So passed the week. Rain, fog and “No News” until Saturday when Patrick received a letter from the Hon Mr Davis our Senator in Congress in reply to one which he had addressed the President through him –laying before him some ideas which he had the most efficient manner of arming a body of Cavalry & asking his authority to raise one.The President in reply stated through Senator Davis, that he desired “a personal interview” with Mr Edmondston. So, in accordance with that desire, this morning before daylight Patrick set off forRichmond. He wished me to accompany him, but I thinking only of the expense, like a good for nothing long-headed calculating creature, did not think best to go. I never repented anything so heartily in all my life, but I must say in my own defense that I did not know how much he was bent on my going until it was too late to recall my decision & so this morning in the cold, cheerless, grey light of the early dawn, & that damp foggy & disagreeable, he set off alone for Richmond leaving me here with Brother.
Margaret is still confined to her Chamber, and as brother is kept all day closely at his business in the Qr Masters office, the children at school, Nannie on household thoughts intent, Margaret & I have nice long mornings together & sit & talk as we have not had the opportunity of doing for some years. The baby, Laura, John & Meta divide our attention & cause an agreeable devision with their childish wants & pleasant prattle.
I have been reading to her some of the “Recreations of a Country Parson” and she is as much pleased with them as I am. I read today the one on “Giving up and Coming Down” & take home some of its lessons to myself. How many of my youthful aspirations have I “come down” from & yet never “given up” my endeavors after something yet in the future. Like a child who when crying for one object is directed by the nurse to another perhaps equally unattainable, but which serves the purpose of quieting it for the moment. Blessed Hope which has never yet deserted me. The strongest desire of my heart when I first began to reason on life, to aim at anything, was to be a companion, help, a friend to my father. For how many years was it the dream, the hope, the main stay of my life, & when I gradually found out that I was not & never could be what I desired and hoped to be to him, how for a time utterly wretched & unhappy I was! Then Came [_____], but what is the use of retrospect? I am lonely enough without Patrick not to encourage sad thoughts this gloomy day. So a truce to moralizing.
The household is divided about a name for the baby & Grandmothers are sought out & their names brought down from the dim past & every thing ever heard of them, every anecdote handed down by tradition, retold—their names, their descent, discussed in the hope of finding an euphonious & family name for the little Lady. Martha Cullen, Mary Livingstone, Mary Bayard, Rosamond Bouchier, Sarah Sanderson, Frances Pollock, Sarah Pierrepont, & more than I can enumerate here, are conned over; but as the father seems to prefer Mary Livingstone, Mary I suppose it will be.
I dined today with Ellen Mordecai. How tenderly time touches her, how like herself she is, how gentle, how earnest, how true. Mr Rayner and Susan were there. Susan does not give on the idea of a happy woman. She before whom life was spread out all bright, all prosperous, who had her own way in every thing, despite her property, her position, her children, seems to have some thing which one cannot define present with her. Is it greif for the sad death of her eldest son? I think not, for she spoke wit ha sad chastened feeling of afflictions & loss of relatives which, tho she made no personal allusion to her own sorrow, yet it was easy to see that they were present with her & her grief was that of a Christian. What it is one cannot define, but there is a shadow there. Mr Rayner is one of the Croakers about the war, abuses every body from the impersonal “Government” down to the private soldiers, stopping to have an especial fling at Gov Clark & Gen Martin. He sees all manner of ill in Burnside’s expedition, thinks he certainly will ascend theRoanoke& seize our Cotton & Corn—in short “we are kilt interly.” I am glad I do not live with such a Raven! But it is bed time, near the “wee sma hours ayout the twal.”
Patrick makes me keep better hours than this, but I am always better with him. So to dream of him.
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
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