Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 15

THE BREAK-UP OF THE CONFEDERACY


“The little feet that never trod

Earth, never strayed in fields or street,

What hand leads upward back to God

The little feet?”


My readers must now be familiar with my surroundings, and after a lot of consideration I have decided to relate much of my future experience from the diaries I wrote in the very atmosphere of the times I am depicting. Day by day the notes were made, short because I only wanted them to stimulate memory and gratitude in the future. They have no pretense whatever to being literature, even of the simplest kind, for I never imagined that it could be possible, I should let any one but God and myself see them. They are commonplace, but they are truth itself. They are about household things, and the war is but transiently mentioned, but they are human documents, and there are the history books for those who want to know about the war.

I thought at first I would not copy the religious sentiments so constantly interwoven, but when I tried to omit them, it felt like putting God out of my life and book, and I could not do that, no, not for the whole world. My first thought was that in this era of godless youth, and material age, these spiritual aspirations and regrets mingling with common daily life would provoke laughter. My second thought refuted this opinion; there are plenty of good men and women yet, I concluded, and to such a sincere religious sentiment, whether expressed by mouth or pen, is respected. It may not always be acceptable, but it is never ridiculous.


NOTES FROM MY DIARY OF 1862

Jan. 1st. Sat up to see the New Year in, and earnestly asked the love and blessing of God on it. Mary poorly, and I sat by her making a sacque for Lilly, and a little slip dress for Alice. Then I read an hour to the children in “Nicholas Nickleby.” Dr. and Jenny Alexander called at night. Robert bought a hog, and had it cut up—must be salted tomorrow.

Jan. 10th. A month ago today dear Ethel entered into rest. Robert and I walked out to her grave, and strewed it with mignonette. When we came back, Robert dug some potatoes out of the garden, and in the evening I read “Nicholas Nickleby” to the children.

Jan. 12th. Sunday again. Ah, how little like Sundays that are past! I feel no interest in church. I am afraid this is wrong. I went out to Ethel’s grave, and while there saw Mrs. Walker’s baby buried. Died of throat trouble. Lucy Goodrich walked home with me.

Jan. 21st. Robert had a conversation about changing this house for a farm with a man I did not like. I have left this matter with God. I was sewing and hearing children’s lessons all day. In the evening I read to them “Darius the Great.”

Jan. 27th. Could not sleep, and got up soon after one o’clock and sewed for two hours. Very high south wind, which always makes me uncomfortable. All day long I was nervous and cross and alas! I may say it was a lost day, for I neither made myself nor any one else happy.

Jan. 31st. Teaching and sewing. Read “Cyrus” to Robert at night, children at Mrs. Palm’s for a candy pulling.

Feb. 1st. Teaching and sewing; Robert looking anxiously for a home in the country. I do not say anything against it to him, but I have my daily talks with God about it.

Feb. 26th. Bad political news. Fort Donelson and Nashville taken. It has made us very low and anxious. Still, though much discouraged, I am not hopeless. In some way or other, God always provides.

Mar. 3rd. Borrowed Mrs. Henrick’s carriage, and drove out to see the Bishop and Mrs. Gregg. Called on Mrs. Gillette coming back. Jenny Alexander spent the evening with us.

Mar. 13th. Nashville and Columbus evacuated. Robert trying to sell our house, and working for Palm balancing books. We went in the evening to Ethel’s grave, and planted jessamine and roses. Jenny Alexander came out to us.

Mar. 16th. Sewing and hearing children’s lessons, and at night reading to them and Robert “Fortunes of Nigel.” About eleven o’clock we were awakened by the shouts of the Pony Post; Robert said they meant good news, and he began to dress himself. Then all the bells in town started ringing, and there was the greatest excitement. The children were all awake, and I threw on my double gown and we went on to the piazza to watch and listen until Robert came home. It was such a lovely night, the mocking birds were singing rapturously, and I think every dog in town was barking. When Robert came home, he said Price and McCulloch had whipped the enemy in Missouri, and taken thirty thousand prisoners, and Beauregard had taken fourteen regiments in Tennessee. Texas may well rejoice, if it be so, but the Lord of Hosts only knows.

Mar. 29th. I was doing some fine ironing all day; the negro in the kitchen too sulky to trust. Jenny Alexander came in and helped me. Bishop Gregg called in the afternoon, and I had a pleasant talk with him. This is my thirty-first birthday. My birthday wish is, that I may daily grow in grace. Robert was sad because he could give me no gift. Poor fellow, I told him I would remember all the dear old ones, and I asked God to bless me, and to direct all my way.

Mar. 30th. Thomas bought our house, and signed all the papers relative to the sale.

Mar. 31st. A very unhappy day. I was in a bad temper, Robert was miserable, and the children wondered at me. Dear God, forgive me!

Apr. 9th. Sewing and teaching; made a delicious beefsteak pie for dinner. Went to see Mrs. Henrick’s in the afternoon; in the evening to Mrs. Durham’s. Poor little Sally, whom I suckled for nearly two months when her mother had fever, just dead of diphtheria!


Apr. 10th. Went to see Sally for the last time. It was Ben McCulloch’s funeral, also. The cemetery was crowded. When we got back from Sally’s funeral, her sister Leanore was dying. She breathed her last at five o’clock.

Apr. 19th. A Mr. Stockton and his wife came to close with Robert for their farm. I was glad the wife came. Women are so much harder to please than men when they are buying. Everything went to pieces. I knew it would from the woman’s face. I wonder how it is that men like women—at least, some women. Dear Robert tried to comfort me; he thought I was disappointed, and I honestly tried to comfort him, for he was very much disappointed. He smiled at my brave words, and said of course all was for the best. I wonder if he really thought so—for it has been a very hard, anxious week.

Apr. 24th. Made a shirt for Robert, and heard children’s lessons. Robert far from well, and hope sometimes dies within me. Dear God, forget not that it is in Thee, in Thee only, I hope and trust.

Apr. 28th. Robert has gone with a Mr. Spenser to see his place on the Brushy. I know it is all useless expense, but I dare not say so to Robert. He seems to have no hope but in this direction, and I must not take his last hope from him. Despondent men have bad temptations. He must have his dream until he gets work. Make no tarrying, O my God! David knew all about “waiting on God.” He durst even ask God to hurry. That is the way I feel this morning.

May 3rd. Gun boats at New Orleans; all gloom here in consequence. Robert still looking for a farm. I asked him today what kind of farm he wanted, and he said, a dairy farm, and then told me what Thaxton made every week from his butter alone, and all gold. Butter! That makes me still more set against farming. Who is to make the butter?

May 4th. Very, very anxious. I have hardly spirit left to attend to the children. For many months I have been fighting this weary bug-a-boo of a farm. I think a change of trouble would be a little relief. This day I am “out” with life.

May 5th. I am so happy! God is so good! I knew He would be good. Robert is to go back to his desk in the comptroller’s office. Mr. Durham called today and told him so. He has forgotten all about farming. He went this afternoon and rented the Cook place, and tomorrow we remove there. I have been singing all afternoon. God has visited me with a blessing in both hands, for not only has Robert got back his old desk, but I have been given the very desire of my heart. Ever since I came to Austin, I have longed to live in the Cook place, but never until now has it been to rent.

It was a big rambling log house on the top of a hill. The town, the capitol and state offices were below it, and the river and the mountains surround it. It stood in an enclosure full of forest trees in front, and behind there was a yard shaded with mulberry trees, ending in a meadow running down to a beautiful creek, and beside this creek there was a stable. The main part of the house was built of immense square cut logs in old Texan fashion, opposite doors to every room, and no windows. It had cupboards and pantries to my heart’s content, and a little roofed passage way connected it with the kitchen and servant’s quarter. The parlor and one other room were of modern construction, and I made the public welcome to them. I chose for myself a large log room, with a fireplace one could burn a cord of cedar in. It was always delightfully cool in the hottest weather; it was always warm and cheerful in winter. If I had the money I would build me a log house today. I would cover it with vines, and among the leaves put gourds for the martins to build in, and I would say to the swifts, “Sister swallows, you are welcome to my chimney.”

For eighteen months I lived in this beautiful place, the life of a completely happy woman. Time went back for me, and I grew young again and joyous and hopeful as my own children. Robert made sufficient for our necessities, and now that we had a stable he bought a couple of mustang ponies. They were beautiful creatures, fine pacers, and cost ten dollars in “specie” each. Robert and I rode out before breakfast nearly every morning to Billingsley’s garden, and bought cantaloupes and tomatoes for the day, and Mary and Lilly soon became clever horsewomen. Mary rode swiftly and gracefully; Lilly was very daring, and took wood or water or anything that came in her way.

I followed my usual duties, attending first of all to my children’s lessons—then sewing, knitting, reading aloud to them, and to Robert, cooking special dishes et cetera. My diary shows that I had an extraordinary amount of company, and that, some way or other, I found time to call upon a large number of friends, and moreover that for days and weeks together, I helped Robert with the tax rolls of the different counties. The following are a few illustrating notes:

June 23rd. Rode before breakfast with Robert to Billingsley’s, afterwards attended to the children. They went riding, and I was checking rolls for Robert all day. Heard that Memphis had fallen. Called on the Durhams in the evening.

July 2nd. Calvin’s birthday. He is five years old. God bless the boy. I thank God for him. Mary Gregg spent the day with us. I gave the children a holiday, and was sewing, and tatting, and listening to Mrs. Illingworth’s troubles. After supper, Robert and I had a walk, and then I played and sang an hour for him.

July 11th. This is my wedding anniversary. Twelve years ago Robert and I were married. That was a happy day, this is twelve times happier. Mr. Durham sent me a basket of grapes, and a pair of ducks for dinner. Robert and I had a walk in the evening, and he said many good and tender words to me. Oh, what a happy woman I am!

July 18th. Rode out to Illingworth’s, and brought Mollie in to spend the day. When I got home found Mollie Beadles, Mollie Peck, and Betty Elgin were waiting. They brought the news of McClellan’s defeat, and surrender. The town seemed drunk with excitement. There was shouting and bell ringing, and the continual cracking of firearms. I managed to find dinner enough for everybody, and we had a merry meal. In the evening Robert and I walked to Ethel’s grave. Truly it is better to go to the House of Mourning, than to the House of Mirth.

Aug. 20th. Have been working hard on the tax rolls every day for a week, and a Mr. Bell worked till after midnight with Robert on his roll. Robert has made a deal of money this month, but somehow it has not been as happy as it should have been.

Sept. 21st. A pleasant day for Robert was at home, but I am not happy. I have been drifting away from God, while I have been so busy. I went to Ethel’s grave in the afternoon, but felt no better. No swift word of prayer or love leaped from my heart. There was no call for me, and no word, or even thought for me. I was cold and lonely. The Great Companion had left me. Well, I deserved it. I have neglected my private reading and prayer for some weeks. I had no time. I made a few dollars, and have lost what no money can buy. Dear Christ, forgive me.

Sept. 29th. All day making over my hoop.

Sept. 30th. Heard lessons, and then went to Mrs. Millican’s to learn how to turn the heel of a stocking properly. Helping Robert at night till very late.

Nov. 3rd. Sewing and knitting all day. Read to Robert at night from Porte Crayon’s work on Virginia.

Nov. 7th. Wrote long letters home, having an opportunity to send them by a Mr. Ruthven.

Nov. 15th. My usual duties; baking cake, and went to sit with Mrs. Durham an hour or two. Took Robert’s sock I am knitting with me.

Dec. 25th. Christmas Day. My darling Edith would enter her ninth year to-day if she had lived. The children were delighted with such presents as we could get them. Most of their toys were of Robert’s making. We had a good breakfast all together. Plenty of chicken and sausage and coffee for everybody, even for Crazy Billy,[4] who came as usual to say “Merry Christmas!”

Dec. 31st. Had a severe cold but knit all day. We are all out of stockings. Let Mary and Lilly sit up till ten o’clock, then they had pecan nuts and home made wine; but Robert and I wanted to watch the New Year in. I am going to be a better woman next year. I have promised, and with God’s help I will keep my promise. Amen.

For another year I was permitted to rest body and soul in this pleasant home, and everything in the main events of life kept a very even tenor. I taught my children, sewed, knit, read aloud to them, and helped Robert with the tax rolls; went to see my friends, and generally had one or more of them in my company. Yet no life is without an almost daily variation; there was plenty of change to keep me watchful, and sometimes a little anxiety, for the future had never looked so dark and so uncertain.

On the thirteenth of March, I had another son, a fine boy whom we called Alexander Gregg after the Bishop. We were very proud and happy in his birth, and his brother Calvin took him to his child heart with a passionate affection. From the first hour of his life he watched over him. His care lasted a little over four years, and then in death, they were not divided.

After Alexander’s birth, any soul at all prescient might feel the end of many things approaching. The stores of all kinds were nearly empty, and I noticed that no stocks were renewed: I could not get an inch of flannel for the new born child, and Mr. Illingworth sent me three of his fine English undershirts to make barrow coats for him. With this gentleman and his wife and children, we had been on the most familiar terms for two years. He was the youngest son of an English family of old and noble lineage, and had run away from college in his twenty-second year. In some way he reached the Creek Indians, and incorporated himself with the tribe, remaining seventeen years with them. On his return to civilization he married a beautiful girl, and had three children. His knowledge of Indian affairs made him of great value to the government, and his desk in the Capitol was close to Robert’s.

Soon after Alexander’s birth, an English lawyer came to Austin seeking Mr. Illingworth. His father was dead, and there was a large fortune waiting his identification. That night he and the lawyer took supper with us, and we talked about England, until I went to bed with a pain in my heart. At this time Mr. Illingworth was separated from his wife, but in the morning I rode to her house, about two miles away, and told her what had happened, advising her, for her children’s sake, to make up her quarrel with her husband. I was sorry that I had been her confidant in the matter, for no one has any business to say a word this way, or that way, between a man and his wife. The confidence however had been forced on me, and I thought then, and I think yet, that she was not much to blame. Given an Englishman inheriting all the authoritative, stubborn qualities and prejudices of an aristocratic family, the same carefully cultivated by the traditional education of his class, and superinduced upon it the education of an American Indian Chief, and you have a variety of the animal called man, any woman might fail to please. I saw him on his return from England, and he was, in spite of his quarter of a century in America, the most English of all the Englishmen I had ever seen. What the cradle rocks, the spade buries. But he was excellent company, and among other things he related the following bit of conversation between himself and Lady C—— at a dinner given to him by his mother’s family, the high, well-born Carews.

“Are you married yet, Mr. Illingworth?”

“I am, Lady C——.

“To an American?”

“Yes, to an American.”

“Is she very dark?”

This question illustrates well the amount of knowledge the noble Englishwoman had of American woman, half a century ago.

Very soon I began to really feel the pinch of war. It seemed an incredible thing not to be able to buy a little domestic or print, when I had money to do so, but I could not. Many people were without shoes, moccasins were commonly worn in the house. Pins and needles were extraordinarily scarce, some were compelled to use mesquite thorns for pins. I once gave a lady three needles number six, number eight, and number ten, and she was so grateful she sent me a fine ham, and two pounds of coffee; real coffee that her husband had brought from Mexico. Alas, there was no more real coffee in Austin, and a majority of people were using the dried leaves of the beautiful Yupon tree instead of real tea. Somehow or other, I cannot tell how, I never wanted either tea or coffee; the Bishop sent me some, and also about twenty pounds of rice. Mr. Durham sent me a little box of English Breakfast tea, and I was just out of that, when Dr. Bacon of the United States Sixth Cavalry sent me a fresh supply. And upon my honor, I do not think there is anything that so firmly and pleasantly cements friendship, as little courtesies of something good to eat. Though I am in my eighty-first year now, I remember how delighted I was with these things, and to go back no further than last Christmas, though I had many gifts of many kinds, the one that gave me the most pleasure of all, was a plum pudding and a dish of Nativity tarts, that an aged Yorkshire lady visiting in Cornwall made for me with her own hands.

One of the symptoms speaking badly for the Confederate cause, was the fact that the government was out of materials for the use of its officers, which it could not manage to supply. Thus the printed and ruled tax rolls were all used. There was paper of a kind, but it needed a certain form of ruling, and Mr. Durham asked Robert if he could rule it. Robert said he had not the time, but that I would do it as well as anybody. So paper and rulers and pencils came to me, and from henceforward until the break up, I ruled the sheets for the assessors. Soon after the envelopes of three necessary sizes gave out, and I made the envelopes. And Mr. Durham laughed when I sent in my bill for “specie” payment.

“Barr,” he said, “you would have taken Blue Williams,[5] but the Confederacy can’t fool women with them. I don’t know a woman who has done anything for it, that has not sent her modest little bill for ‘specie.’”

These employments broke in upon my regular life very much, but the “specie” was our domestic salvation. In the household also we were obliged to help ourselves. No candles were to be bought, and we made our own candles. We were as badly off for soap also, that is the soap for washing clothes and kitchen use. I had yet a few boxes of Old Brown Windsor which I had brought with me from England, and also perhaps half a dozen of those semi-transparent balls made, I think, by Pears. Among other utilities I painted a very respectable pack of playing cards. I had bought, with my Newman’s box of water colors, a dozen large sheets of bristol board, which was just the proper thickness. Robert with a sharp shoemaker’s knife cut them even, and exact, and then I painted them. I was quite pleased with this achievement and sent word to Pat O’Gorman and Mr. Simcox, we could have our game of whist once more. I have forgotten what became of this pack, but I think one of these gentlemen took it as a memorial of the evenings in the old log house.

Thus nearly every day there was a makeshift of some kind to devise, and we found out, often with real happiness, that “necessity is the mother of invention.” Robert said it was like living in a Texas log house the island life of the Swiss Family Robinson.

One day when the year was drawing close to Christmas, Robert came home early. As soon as I saw him, I knew there was trouble, and I said, “What is it, Robert?”

“Why, Milly, dear, this house has been sold, and we must leave it before the first. Oh, my dear, I am so sorry!”

I was giving the Sally Lunns their second kneading, and I let the dough fall to the floor. The tears sprang to my eyes, but I tried to bear the loss as well as I could. Indeed I had been half afraid of this very thing, for three nights previously I had dreamed of seeing my furniture on a wagon. I sat down. Robert put his arm round me, and whispered a few hopeful words, and I answered, “It is all right, dear. We have had a fine rest here. We shall never forget it. Do you know where we can rent anything as comfortable?”

“Not yet. Allen tells me, General Haney’s place, just beyond the Capitol will be for rent very soon, but there is nothing at present but the Cartmel place, and if that will not do, we must store our things, and go to the hotel.”

“Then the Cartmel place must do. How can we go into two or three rooms with five little children? Gracious Robert! It was not at all pleasant with two. Where is the Cartmel place?”

“Just above Mrs. Green’s.”

“Not that little house with a Spanish dagger in the strip of ground before it?”

“Yes.”

“O Robert! It stands in a hole, down on the flat, too. I never could bear living in a valley. I look unto the hills always. From the hills cometh my strength, soul and body strength. And there is no stable to it, and what about the ponies?”

“We must sell them, of course. There is a large corn field with the house. It grew a famous crop this year.”

“But what is the use of growing corn, when we cannot have horses?”

“No. Well, dear, I thought you had better know at once. Mr. Durham advised me to come home and to help you pack. If we must go, the sooner the better.”

“You are right, we will begin this hour.”

So we did, but there were delays about one thing or another that we had not anticipated, and the twenty-ninth of December found us just ready to move, in the very teeth of one of the most dreadful northers I had ever experienced. But Robert had had negroes in the Cartmel place for a week, cleaning and keeping the big fires night and day. So with Alice and Alexander wrapped in blankets, we moved down there, the people who had bought the log house, having invaded it with six children, a dozen negroes, and all kinds of baggage, three days before their legal tenure began.

Well, like all other troubles, the flitting came to an end, and things were not as uncomfortable as I had expected. The ponies had to go, but there was a shed close to the kitchen for a cow, and Robert said he would try to get one as soon as he could. That put all right. To have a cow and lots of milk and cream and butter! We could turn her into the field and there was the shed to milk her in. I could hardly wait for the creature.


Next day a man called Abner Blair called to see Robert about his taxes, and I was repacking a trunk with trifles, I did not wish to use in so small a house. He watched me, and lifted some of the books and tartan things. His fingers clung to them, and I could see that he was in a great mental tumult.

“Are you Scotch, Mr. Blair?” I asked.

“Scotch!” he cried. “I’m nothing else. Highland Scotch, from Aberdeen way! Scotch for a thousand years! Scotch from the creation itself! My wife is Scotch, and my children are Scotch, and there’s nothing in Blair house that isn’t Scotch.”

“Then,” I said, “if you are from Aberdeen way, you will know what this is;” and I held up the Scotch pebble bracelet I had bought on that last walk I took up Buchanan Street, Glasgow.

He looked for a moment at the ornament, then he touched it, and asked, “What will you take for it, I have a little lassie that would go crazy to wear it. She will be twenty-one on Sunday next. Sell me the pretty thing. My certie! I used to go gathering the stones—I did that—I wanted them to pay my way through St. Andrews. What will you take for it?”

“I will give it to you for your daughter’s birthday,” I answered. “I’ll give it to her with all kinds of good wishes.”

“I take you at your word,” he said in a perfect enthusiasm of pleasure. “And I’ll tell you what! I’ll give you the best milch cow on Abner Blair’s ranch, and I’ll bring her in to you on Saturday.”

“Come back in half an hour,” I said, “and I will clean the silver settings and make them bright.” He came back and went off with the bawble proud and happy, and on Thursday brought me a milk cow which justified all his promises. But as I rubbed bright the silver setting, and very often since, I have wondered what power had prompted me in 1853, to buy a bracelet which I did not want, which I was rather ashamed of buying, in order that it might get me and my children plenty of milk and butter in 1863, when such things were scarce and dear, and under ordinary circumstances beyond procuring.

My life in the Cartmel place was only a variation and accentuation of what it had been in the Cook place. I did more and more work for the government, and at the end of the year I confessed, that it had been money in the purse, and not so well for me in other ways. The children’s lessons had been much neglected, and the half-hour I had given daily to private prayer, ever since I was twelve years old, had been put aside for ruling tax papers, or something else that seemed more important. But this putting aside was neither happiness nor true prosperity. It implied a trust in myself, rather than in God; and I do believe at this day, as I did really then, that if I had gone on doing my own duties, God would have sent the necessary money in some easier and better way.

I notice in my diary, that soon after the New Year, Robert was often on guard most of the night. There was at this time a great terror of negro insurrections, and often I put the children to bed fully dressed, in case there was a necessity to flee for life. We had all our plans made for this emergency, the first and most surely safe one being, a quick retreat to the grave yard, for no negro would venture within its ghostly precinct. The nights Robert was on guard, I always had company, very often a Miss Sophia Richardson, the daughter of the editor of the Austin Gazette. She was a beautiful woman, well read, witty and yet good-natured, and a singer of great power and sweetness. She married after I left Austin the editor of the New Orleans Picayune, and if this remembrance ever reaches her eyes, I want her to think of me, as she knew me when we used to be happy together in the old log house on the hill. It stood next to her own home. Here are two notes on this life:

Feb. 18th. Sewing and hearing lessons, then ruling for Mr. Durham. But I am weary and sleepy. Alexander is teething, and he does not let me sleep an hour at a time. Sophy Richardson all day with me.

Feb. 19th. Had a bad night with Alexander, got up early and made hot rolls for breakfast. Made sweet bread afterwards, also a chicken pie for dinner. Heard lessons, sewing and knitting. Sophy Richardson came in. Glad to see her. Betty Elgin called to borrow a book. Robert home early, going on guard. There is a guard of well-armed citizens set every night now. Robert told me it was necessary, for a devilish negro plot had been discovered.

Plots and rumors of plots kept every one unhappy, and as we entered the last year of the war, the air was full of miserable reports. It was a brave heart that kept any hope now for the Confederate cause. The weary ruling of paper, and making envelopes ceased. The Governor, the Comptroller and George Durham all knew well, there would be no need of them. On the eve of my thirty-fifth birthday I wrote:

Mar. 28th, 1865. None but the good God knows the history of the coming year, but it is in His loving hands. I have had many cares and sorrows, many pains and deprivations this past year, but not one too many, because all is for the best. Every one is gloomy, for every one is anticipating invasion. We have no money, and very little clothing in the house—neither have I anything ready, either for myself or the child I am expecting; but God is sufficient, and He will be sure to provide.

May 14th. Robert went early up town. Heard of Lee and Johnson’s surrender. Jeff Davis said to be flying to the Trans-Mississippi. Many say the Confederate cause is lost.

May 25th. The dream is over. No Southern independence now. Robert thinks it will be Southern slavery. I have been ironing hard all day, and sewing, but I heard no lessons. I was too troubled and anxious, for Confederate soldiers, without officers or order, are coming in every hour, and there is nothing but plunder and sack going on—and the citizens are as bad as the soldiers.

May 26th. I had a very bad night, and feel headachey and sleepy. Had to iron; the negro won’t work; indeed Robert says both men and women have deserted their homes, and are hanging about the streets, watching the white men plundering, but too much afraid of the white man, to take a hand in the work. I heard no lessons, but did a little sewing, and all the housework that the negroes ought to do. In the evening Robert went to a public meeting about protecting the town.

May 27th. Very anxious and unsettled. The town and all the adjacent country is in a dreadful condition. From a man going north, Robert bought seven bushels of meal, thirty-six pounds of salt, and fifty pounds of sugar. Thankful to God for it, for in these days we know not what may happen from hour to hour. Tried to sew in the afternoon, but impossible; there is too much looting and quarreling going on. It seems as if every one had a claim against the Confederacy, and were paying themselves.

June 2nd. Everything in confusion. Everyone suspicious and watchful, and there is no law. Governor Lubbock and the state officers have fled to Mexico.

June 11th. The Rio Grande soldiers reached Austin today. I could not help crying as they passed my door, and Robert lifted his hat to honor them. These men were victors, though their cause was lost. Through every deprivation and suffering, through hunger and thirst, through heat and cold, weary, ragged, weather-beaten and battle-scarred, they had carried aloft their flag with the single star. And they carried it proudly that day through the streets of Austin. No one dared to forbid it. Robert told me he saw many men weep as it passed them, and turn away, but it floated fitly enough above the heads of those who had given up everything for the ideals it typified. They went straight to the Capitol, and demanded payment either in gold or government property for their long service. And as no one had a right to pay them, they paid themselves. The scene was indescribable, and Robert slipped away and came home.

June 14th. Today the soldiers are looting the government stables. They are dividing the mules and horses and saddlery among themselves. The noise and tumult is indescribable. I was sewing, and ironing, and cooking all day, and sewing again until midnight, for I must work hard now, in order to have all comfortable for the children and Robert, while I am sick. We keep quietly in doors, and are as happy as we can be under the circumstances; but the poor country! My heart aches for Texas, subjugated and all lost, even honor.

June 15th. Hot windy weather, but feel pressed to work, for I have still much to do. But how thankful I ought to be for the health and strength given me. God be near me for Christ’s sake. My negro servant comes home to eat, then she runs into the city again. I have all her work to do, but she is waiting for her freedom. I cannot blame her.

June 23rd. The Emancipation Proclamation arrived. Robert said he was glad of it, because the negroes knew they were free, and were impatient for its public acknowledgment.

June 24th. The sheriff read the Emancipation Proclamation. He read it with no more ceremony than if he was giving notice of a forced sale of land, or a new city ordinance about negro passes, or any other every day occurrence. He was surrounded by white men, who listened without interest or remark, and the negroes were shocked and dismayed. They had been sure that the news of their freedom would come with the calling of trumpets, the firing of cannon, and the triumphant entry of a victorious army. Robert said they were sick and silent with disappointment, and vanished from the streets. I went into the kitchen to tell Harriet. She was leaning against the open door, looking intently eastward. Freedom was to come from the east, and she was always listening and watching for its approach. Her child, a girl about a year old, was sitting on the floor playing with some empty spools. I had always thought her indifferent to it. “Harriet,” I said, and she turned her eyes upon me but did not speak, “you are free, Harriet! From this hour as free as I am. You can stay here, or go; you can work or sleep; you are your own mistress, now, and forever.” She stepped forward as I spoke, and was looking at me intently, “Say dem words again, Miss Milly!” she cried, “say dem again.” I repeated what I had told her, making the fact still more emphatic; and as I did so, her sullen black face brightened, she darted to her child, and throwing it shoulder high, shrieked hysterically, “Tamar, you’se free! You’se free, Tamar!” She did not at that supreme moment think of herself. Freedom was for her child; she looked in its face, at its hands, at its feet. It was a new baby to her—a free baby. Actually the mother love in her face had humanized its dull, brutish expression. I said again, “You are also free, Harriet. You are your own mistress now. Will you hire yourself to me?” I asked.

“When dem Yankees coming, Miss Milly?”


“Nobody knows.”

“How I free then?”

“They sent word.”

“Mighty poor way to set folks free.”

“Will you hire yourself to me, Harriet? I will give you six dollars a month.”

“Six dollars too little, Miss Milly.”

“It is what I paid your master.”

“Thank de Lord, I’se got no master now. I ’long to myself now. I want eight dollars now. When a nigger free, they worth more.”

So I agreed with the freed negro for eight dollars, but I noticed three days later, I had a fresh free nigger at one dollar fifty cents a day. Harriet had gone forever.

In this uncertain condition of affairs, it was perhaps astonishing they worked at all. In fact it was only the women who made any pretense of doing so, but they were generally mothers, and old master was the only sure provider for the children until the Yankees came. The men loafed about the streets, or made little camps in the corn fields, for the young ears were then ripe and milky and good to eat. But all were alike watching with weary impatience for the arrival of the military.

July 17th. This was Robert’s last day’s work for the Confederacy. He was working on his balance sheet. He has been three years, two months, and twelve days in the employ of the late Confederate government—days of goodness and mercy, every one of them. And I am not going to worry about the future. God’s arm is not shortened; it is as able to save and to provide as it ever was. There was nearly two months due Robert, which was of course paid in “specie.” I shall use every cent carefully, and more is sure to come, for God carries the purse for a wise spender.

July 20th. Robert working for the Military Board. I suffer constantly night and day trying to keep up my regular duties. Robert helps all he can, but he is the best part of his day at the Military Board. The weather is hot and very exhausting, even the children get cross in it.

July 25th. About two hundred soldiers came into town. They hoisted the Stars and Stripes on the Capitol, and went to work to prepare tents, stabling, et cetera, for the troops to follow. They hardly noticed the negroes, and showed no disposition whatever to affiliate with them. On the contrary they were friendly with the white men, took drinks with them, and passed around their tobacco bags, tobacco being one thing our men were suffering for.

July 27th. About three thousand soldiers came in today. I was able to iron a little, though I did not sleep an hour last night.

July 28th. Wagons and soldiers pouring into the town. Some of the earliest troops raised the flag at the corner of Hancock’s store. The children went to see the ceremony. After it was raised, the troops saluted it, and Judge Hancock called for cheers. The children said there were a few weak little cheers, and the Judge was angry, and the men walked away. Tried to iron and to bake; after Robert came home, finished a pair of socks for him.

Aug. 7th. My dear Archibald was born at half past six this morning. Robert stayed with me all day. Mrs. Carlton and Mrs. Green and Jenny Alexander came and sat with me a little. I was very proud and happy with my new son, and very grateful to God for all the love that surrounded me. There is old Aunt Patsy in the kitchen; Mary, Lilly and Calvin do all they can, and what they cannot do, Robert somehow manages.

The daily record of my life at this time is chiefly remarkable for the wonderful way in which it represents men of all ages, and all sorts and conditions, taking hold of the heavy housework, thrown upon the hands of the women by the refusal of negroes to work. They accepted it with a kind of pride, and refused to feel any shame in relieving their wives of labor beyond their strength. I went into a friend’s house one day and found her husband, with board and bathbrick, cleaning the table knives. I knew men who “fired” all the food, for the cooking was then done in skillets on the hearth, with hot coals underneath, and upon the lid. I knew others who turned the mattresses and made the beds, and though I was seldom quite without help, Robert found plenty of housework to do, which he would not permit either Mary, or Lilly, or myself to attempt. As illustrating the time, I insert here two records, taken without option or choice, but reflecting the life of the period so well, that I will not change them:

Oct. 27th. Been up and down all night with Archie, who is teething and very restless. Robert had kindled the fire, and I made coffee and muffins, and fried some bacon. After breakfast I attended to children, then baked six loaves of light bread, cooked steak and mashed potatoes for dinner. Mary and Lilly set the table very nicely. After dinner I cleaned up, and when Robert came home about four o’clock, he parched some coffee, and then helped me make candles. We had a pleasant supper, and after the little ones were in bed, I read “Ivanhoe” to Robert until bedtime.

Nov. 1st. Got up dull and tired, and made breakfast, then washed up, and tidied the house. Robert gone up town to see what he can do about a house. We must leave this place, and I would be glad to do so, if we could find another. Robert hopes Major Pierce will pay him today, I put no confidence in the man. I heard Mary and Calvin read, examined them in other studies. Lilly is sick in bed yet. Robert came home disappointed about both house and money. Well, God has both in store. We must pay for them with faith and patience, and in the meantime, the good Father sets my table, and provides for all my wants.

Nov. 27th. Robert rented the Morris place, just back of the Capitol. I am delighted. I hated the house we are in, as soon as I heard of it; and we have had nothing but trouble, while living under its roof. Perhaps our moving may make a break in the long roll of anxious days and nights, just as a nightmare is gone, the moment we stir under it.

The Morris place, to which I made all haste to remove, was almost in the center of the camp of the Sixth Cavalry, and their tents were all round our enclosure. A little behind them were the wigwams of the Tonkaway and Lipan guides, but I had no fear of either white men or Indians. And we soon found that we had come among the most courteous and friendly people. A little offering of cream and new milk opened the way for much mutual kindness; the officers came familiarly to our house. Colonel Morris had the use of our stable, and the girls had the use of horses when they wanted them.

I must notice here, that this kind treatment of “rebels” was not specially for our case. Almost as soon as the Sixth Cavalry arrived in Austin, its officers gave a Reconciliation Ball, and to their regular afternoon promenade and concert, there was a hearty welcome for all who chose to come. It was a great pleasure once more to feel myself surrounded by happy, hopeful people; the atmosphere round the camp was lighter and brighter than what I had been breathing for years, and my nature responded gladly to its stimulus.

Nevertheless, the half year following this removal was full to the brim of every sorrow that humanity can suffer. We were hardly settled when Lilly fell very sick with camp measles, and one after the other the whole family followed her. What we should have done without Dr. Bacon of the Sixth Cavalry at this time, I cannot imagine. He watched over every sick child with a care and tenderness that probably saved their lives. There were but few ladies in the camp, but those present were kind and sympathetic and Mrs. Madden, the wife of Captain Madden, helped me nurse through many critical nights.

During these hard weeks of suffering and utter weariness, there was always the haunting fear of poverty. At first, after the break-up Robert was not anxious. The three richest men in Austin, Mr. Swenson, Mr. Swisher and Mr. Raymond were intending to open a bank as soon as affairs would warrant the project. They had engaged Robert as cashier, and in the meantime he was putting the affairs of the Military Board in order for Major Pierce. But the Military Board work was now finished, and there was no prospect as yet for a bank in Austin. Moreover, word had just come that Mr. Swenson had gone into the banking business in New York. So we were anxious and uncertain, for with six children it would not be as easy to move, as when we came to Austin with two.

But money trials are not the hardest, and somehow or other, they are always overcome. I have been constantly amazed in reading my diary for this year, to see how wonderfully, and from what strange and unlooked-for sources our purse was kept adequate to our wants. It was my intention to burn this diary as soon as I had taken from its pages the story it has so many years preserved, but after reading the record of these sad weeks, I can never do it. As long as I live, it shall be a witness between God and myself that in every trial and in every sorrow He was sufficient. The stones of Bethel were not more sacred, than this little book wet with my tears, and holding my prayers. For over and over it acknowledges, “Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not!” (Lamentations, 3:57.)

Robert had just made up his mind to go to San Antonio to see what business opportunities were there, when Archie was taken sick. He was only a child of ten months old, but he had crept close into all our hearts. I sent for Dr. Bacon, and his attitude from the first was one of anxiety. The next day he told Robert he had better not leave home. “The child is very sick,” he said, “and his illness has taken a turn that is nearly always fatal.”

Three nights after this advice, Robert lay down to sleep and rest a little, for he had been holding the child all day. It was then near midnight, and Archie appeared to be sleeping. I sat down beside his cot, and was knitting a stocking, and watching his every movement. Suddenly a large picture of Lake Windermere, heavily framed, which was hanging over the chimney piece crashed to the floor. No one moved, no one heard the crash, and I went and looked at the picture. Nothing about it was in any way injured. Then I bowed my head, and clasped my hands. There was One present, and I saluted him. The words I expected came.

From that hour Archie grew steadily worse and when Dr. Bacon called the following afternoon, I said,

“He is very ill, Doctor?”

“Very.”

“Dying?”

“Yes. Look at his small hands. See how firmly he has clasped his four fingers over his thumbs. That is a very sure sign of death. Why do they do it? Who can tell?”


Soon after midnight Archie died. It was a glorious night, and after I had washed and dressed the dear child for his grave, I went out and cut handfuls of white altheas, and strewed them over the little form. All that day he lay thus, and his brothers and sisters came and kissed him, and he was yet one of the household. The next morning the little coffin was ready, I laid him in it, and then Robert gathered the children and read the burial service over it. Colonel Morris had loaned us the officer’s carryall, and there was plenty of room in it, not only for the whole family, but also for the little coffin. It was in this way, we went to the graveyard, and laid him beside his sister Ethel.

God accomplishes that which is beyond expectation. The next morning Robert got an offer from a large cotton house in Galveston, which he accepted. Of course this meant, that he must leave me and the children in Austin until October; before that, there might be some danger from yellow fever. But we both knew, that in the United States camp, there was every security, and that the kindness already given would not be withdrawn.

After a few days’ preparation Robert went away one morning. We watched him until he mounted the last step, leading over the Capitol wall. There he stood a moment, and waved his hat, and we turned quickly into the house because it is not lucky to watch the traveler out of sight. And as I entered the sitting-room, the pendulum of the clock fell to the floor, and I picked it up and said, “It is ten minutes past eleven. We shall see that something will happen at that time.” I was not worried about the circumstance. I merely thought it prefigured some unusual event.

The three months that followed were very happy ones. Colonel Morris sent the bandmaster to sleep in the house, and to watch the Indians, and I threw off all care, and gave myself and the children a holiday. All lessons were dropped, and the girls rode every day to their heart’s content. I wrote cheerful, loving letters to Robert, and had cheerful, loving letters in return. And the weeks went quickly away, until the last one came. Then having sold all our furniture, and also the good cow bought with the Scotch pebble bracelet, I was ready to depart. Ten years previously I had come to Austin, and thought it a city in fairy land. I had seen every charm vanish away. It was a dead city that I was leaving. The dead houses and dead streets might live again, but nothing could restore unto them the glory of the past. I was not sorry to leave them.

Sept. 24th. This is my last entry in Austin. Went with Mary to the graveyard and planted some more shrubs on the two little graves. Then I knelt down and bid them farewell forever. Came home and had some ironing and packing to do; old Anna was doing the last cleaning. In the afternoon had a house full of callers, the Reverend Mr. Rogers, Mrs. Henricks, the Beadles, et cetera; in the evening Lieutenant Kramer, and Major Starr, and Mr. Blackwell. It has been a restless, heart-achey day, and Galveston does not call me pleasantly, but

“Manifold are the changes,

Which Providence may bring;

Many unlooked-for things,

God’s power hath brought about.

What seemeth likely happeneth not,

And for unlikely things,

God findeth out a way.”


O little book, I shut up in you many sacred sorrows! But where on this earth shall the mortal be found, who is free of all trouble? Even the happy have secret griefs, they never utter:

“But anywhere, or everywhere,

If I fulfil God’s will,

And do my Life’s work bravely,

I shall be happy still.”




[4] An English gentleman who lost his reason on spiritual matters. He lived alone, no one knew just how; but he always came to us for Christmas breakfast.

[5] Blue Williams, Confederate paper money.



Amelia E. Barr