September 3, 1864
Who can tell what a day will bring forth? The affliction into which poor Pattie was in one moment plunged sends a pang through every heart & makes all tremble for the future. On the first, the day before yesterday, she received a letter from her sister, Mrs Gilliam, telling her that her brother Capt Skinner (whom she idolized more than any other human being) had been instantly killed whilst gallantly leading a charge at the battle of Ream’s Station. He had just shouted to his men, “Forward boys! Forward once more & we have got them!!” when he was struck by a Minnie ball in the left temple & fell. His men pressed on, carried the Yankee works, & returned to find him cold & stiff in death. His cousin Willie Mallory (a member of his company) & another of his men buried him on the field of battle & wrote his sister an account of his death. Poor Pattie! Her grief is fearful! Her wounds are torn open afresh & the “low beginnings of content” which God in his mercy had granted her are broken up from the foundation. In the most heartrending accents she would call on her husband, on her brother, exclaim that they were her all, her all, Aunt Kate, Aunt Kate my all, my all! until ones heart & brain almost reeled at the presence of such sorrow. Ah! How much more heavy is the pressure of greif when there is nothing to be done but to look the dreadful fact steadily in the face, than when there is a need for action, for exertion, for thought of some kind.
Her sisters entertain hopes of recovering the body & burying for the present in Oxford & I have sent a man on to the battle field to make the attempt. Mr Edmondston accordingly took her yesterday to that place in the hope of being in time for the funeral. Poor thing, my heart bleeds for her! He was indeed her “all,” her stay, her support, & her comfort & to him alone she looked for what of happiness the future had in store for her. I cannot trust myself to speak of his death. It seems to have brought the war even nearer to me than the death of my own nephew did. Perhaps on account of its suddenness! But if there is one fate in the future, one punishment for the damned more terrible than another, it will surely be those who have inaugerated and carried on this dreadful war, who have sown the country broadcast with blood & misery. Mr Lincoln! Mr Lincoln! We call you to the bar of Judgment, you and your arch tool Seward! On you two falls the weight of the heaviest retribution which man was ever yet called to suffer.
Capt Benjamin Skinner was an uncommonly fine young man of parts more solid than brilliant. He had made himself beloved by his associates & idolized by his family for a kindness of disposition, an unselfishness of character, which showed itself in constant acts of self denial for their sakes. Firm, upright, & just in his dealings with all men, he was distinguished for modesty of disposition, a cheerful evenness of temper, a kindly playfulness of manner as rare as it is valuable, a good soldier, — gallant, brave, and uncomplaining even amids the greatest of hardships. He was almost worshiped by his men and he commanded in no small degree the respect and admiration of his superior officers. As the head of his family his death will long be felt by them; for to him, young as he was, they all looked up as to a common centre. To his Mother & Pattie his loss is irreparable & to his youngest brother now immured in a Northern Prison the want of his example & influence is incalculable. He was but a type of thousands of other young men who daily lose their lives on the altar of Southern independance. “Independance” my God! how dearly bought! Hasten the time O Lord when we shall be free! free from the ravages of this Northern Minos who thus devours the flower of our youth!
All day yesterday I wandered about worn out in body & mind, unable to do anything or even to think of any thing save Pattie & her sorrow’s. Mr E & herself left early in the morning & he cannot get back at earliest before twelve o’clock tomorrow. I think I shall scarce know rest until he comes. A tiny note from him this morning dated Weldon gives us the ill omened news that in spite of the blood shed at Ream’s the Yankees still hold the R R at that point. No explanation of the heavy firing on the 1st, so we are forced to think it must have been further down the road. He tells me also that McClellan & Wood are the nominees for the Chicago Convention for Pres & Vice Pres of the U S. Little do I care whom they place in that seat; be it the arch Enemy himself, he would suit his subjects rarely. I do not beleive in their Peace humbugs & Restoration of the Unions — canards “Peace,” “Reconstruction,” & “Union” are party cries all alike empty. Give them but the power & we will see what kind of Peace they will give us. Peace lies in our own good swords & unerring aim.
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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