The War Through Women’s Eyes, Part II

"The next day Mrs. McDonald went into Winchester to aid in caring for the wounded. She wrote: "I wanted to be useful, and tried my best, but at the sight of one face that the surgeon uncovered, telling me that it must be washed, I thought I should faint. It was that of a Captain Jones of a Tennessee regiment. A ball had struck him on the side of the face, taking both eyes and the bridge of his nose. It was a frightful spectacle. I stood as the surgeon explained how, and why he might be saved, and the poor fellow not aware of the awful sight his eyeless face was, with the fearful wound still fresh and bleeding, joined in the talk, and, raising his hand put his finger on his left temple and said, 'Ah! if they had only struck me there, I should have troubled no one.' The surgeon asked me if I would wash his wound. . . ."

From Cornelia McDonald's
A Diary with Reminiscences of the War
and Refugee Life

Part II of

The War Through Women's Eyes

by Douglas Southall Freeman

Chapter VI of
The South to Posterity,1

[Publisher's Note, by Gene Kizer, Jr. : This is the final part, Part II, of Freeman's Chapter VI. These have all been riveting and well-written accounts of the war. The passages from Sarah Morgan (later Sarah Morgan Dawson) show the humiliation and bitterness for her family when forced by circumstances to take the oath of allegiance to the Yankees in New Orleans while two brothers were still in the field, both of whom were soon killed. Of ten regiments of Louisianians -- approximately 10,000 men -- only 750 made it home.

Sarah Morgan later married the former English writer, Francis Warrington Dawson, who was a captain in the Confederate Army and later editor of the Charleston News and Courier.

The News and Courier became today's Post and Courier, which is an insufferable politically correct rag that is 100% responsible for destroying the monument to South Carolina's most famous native son and American Founding Father, John C. Calhoun. It had stood on Marion Square in downtown Charleston for 125 years.

The monument said simply "Truth, Justice, and the Constitution" but that was too patriotic for the woke Post and Courier, which has celebrated their destruction of this huge piece of Charleston history since the summer. Their own paper said the Calhoun statue was "as good as any in the City of Rome" but they destroyed it anyway because woke hate knows no bounds.

Since the 1930s when The South to Posterity was published, much more from the perspective of women and about women in the War Between the States has come to light. Many new books have been written.

I have inserted 14 outstanding illustrations, mostly photographs. Again, the style of the citation and content of each note are Douglas Southall Freeman's, verbatim.]

MRS. CHESNUT'S FRIEND, the President's Lady, never kept a diary for any length of time, if at all, but in her Jefferson Davis . . . A Memoir by his Wife2 she included much that was lively and autobiographical. The book was not enthusiastically welcomed in the South for reasons that went back to the early summer of 1861, when Mrs. Davis first came to the new Confederate capital. All Richmond, especially all feminine Richmond, scrutinized Varina Howell Davis with polite and perhaps with cold curiosity. Virginians knew, of course, of Mr. Davis' pathetic3 early romance, which ended speedily in the death of his bride. She had been a daughter of General, then Colonel, Zachary Taylor and hence a granddaughter of Virginia and a cousin of many F. F. V.'s. Tradition had it that she had been very lovely. As for the second Mrs. Davis---well, her grandfather on her father's side had been Governor of New Jersey and her mother's line included that of the Virginia Kempes, so there could be no question about her social standing. At the same time, echoes had come from Washington of some sharp passages at arms between her and certain other ladies. She had spoken with a candor almost cruel and again she had smiled and had been politic when there had been a dangerous gleam in her fine eyes. While naturally she would be received with the respect and attention due the wife of the idolized President, it might be well to be a little careful at first.

Varina Howell Davis, First Lady of the Confederate States, in Frank Leslie's Illus. Newsp, 1862.
Varina Howell Davis, First Lady of the Confederate States, in Frank Leslie's Illus. Newsp, 1862.
Wedding photo in 1845 of Jefferson Davis and Varina Howell. She was 18, he was 37.
Wedding photo in 1845 of Jefferson Davis and Varina Howell. She was 18, he was 37.

So reasoned Richmond women. Nor did they change their minds when first they saw her. She was somewhat above the average height and in the physical amplitude of the forties. Her face could not be accounted beautiful, but neither was it unattractive. She carried her head well and dressed her hair simply and most gracefully. Her neck and shoulders were fine. There was nothing in her manner that could be called forbidding; and if quick friendship was discouraged, this was done with much adroitness by a calm glance and an unsmiling mouth that showed she was conscious of her position and indisposed to risk it by hasty professions.

Mrs. Jefferson Davis, portrait, sometime between 1860 and 1870.
Mrs. Jefferson Davis, portrait, sometime between 1860 and 1870.

President and Mrs. Davis thought it would be proper to hold receptions at frequent intervals and to throw them open to the public, instead of confining them to invited guests. It was felt that a general invitation might bring to the President's house gentlemanly officers and soldiers of whose presence in Richmond the Davises otherwise might not know. Besides, it was the democratic thing to do. At first, Richmond society was a bit aghast at the thought of levees open to all, but after natives learned that interesting Cabinet members, Congressmen, Senators and distinguished soldiers were to be met there, the city's best attended. By her manner at these receptions, Mrs. Davis rose swiftly to admiration and, in many cases, to affection. Like her husband, she had the same friendly greeting for every guest, regardless of station, with neither effusion nor condescension.

When Constance Cary was the brilliant Mrs. Burton Harrison and could look back through decades with all the perspective of time and all the experience of social life, she could say "the lady of the Confederate White House, while not always sparing of witty sarcasms upon those who had affronted her, could be depended upon to conduct her salon with extreme grace and conventional ease." Again, she wrote, Mrs. Davis "was decreed to be a woman of warm heart and impetuous tongue, witty and caustic, with a sensitive nature underlying all; a devoted wife and mother."4

T. C. de Leon probably described Mrs. Davis with accuracy when he said: "She was politician and diplomatist in one, where necessity demanded, but . . . Varina Howell Davis preferred the straight road to the tortuous bypath. She was naturally a frank though not a blunt woman, and her bent was to kindliness and charity. Sharp tongue she had, when set that way and the need came to use it; and her wide knowledge of people and things sometimes made that use dangerous to offenders. Mrs. Davis had a sense of humor painfully acute, and the unfitness of things provoked laughter with her rather than rage. That the silly tales of her sowing dissension in the Cabinet and being behind the too frequent changes in the heads of the government are false, there seems small reason to doubt. Surely, in social matters, she moved steadily and not slowly, from at least coolness to the warm friendship of the best women of conservative Richmond and to the respect of all."5

In denying, somewhat too mildly, the vicious stories that Mrs. Davis interfered in the Cabinet, Mr. de Leon might have denounced as well the whispered "secret of the White House that Mrs. Davis confided too carelessly to a member of the President's official household affairs of war and state that he traitorously communicated to the Federals. This was the basest of slander, for which the revelations of seventy years give not the least shadow of justification or even any possible basis for unjust suspicion other than that the patriotic and sacrificial official happened to be Northern-born.

Mr. Davis did not permit "the Mistress of the Gray House" to visit often the hospitals because, as he told her, he did not think she should expose the men to the restraint that her presence might impose. In addition, Mrs. Davis was twice confined while in Richmond. The President probably felt that Mrs. Davis' physical condition and her social obligations were such that regular attendance upon the hospitals would be injurious. Even when she was busiest, or close to motherhood, she found time to visit bereaved families  to prepare and dispense the food and clothing that generous friends of the Confederacy sent to her, to the Governor, or to others for the use of the needy.6

By the affrighting spring of 1862, Mrs. Davis virtually had completed her conquest of Richmond society, but as the enemy drew nearer the city, there occurred an incident that dampened the enthusiasm of some natives for her. On the night of May 9, one of the regular levees was held at the Executive Mansion. Mr. Davis was a gracious as ever. Presently, through the throng, a courier made his way to the President,. Mr. Davis read his dispatches without the flickering of an eyelash and resumed his duties as host. In a short time, as he passed Mrs. Davis she gave him a questioning glance. He paused and whispered, "The enemy's gunboats are ascending the river," and then he went on.

When the last of the guests departed, he told her to complete her packing for a departure originally scheduled for the 12th. The next morning she left Richmond with her children and went to Raleigh. Mrs. Davis returned when the danger was past and reigned with favor, but again, when the end was at hand in 1865, there was grumbling that she fled the city. It would have been more courageous, Richmond women thought, had she remained as other wives did in order that all the trains might be used for troops and supplies. Later Mrs. Davis won much sympathy by her efforts to procure the President's release, but, for a fourth time, criticism was visited upon her when, following Mr. Davis's death, she went to New York to live. Her reasons were valid, but that did not win acceptance for them. Consequently, when she issued her Memoir of Mr. Davis, she did not have in the South as attentive an audience as she deserved. She was not an ideal historian, to be sure, and she weakened her pages by over-frequent quotation from her husband's book; but by her straightforward and cheerful narrative she won many unbiased hearts. James Ford Rhodes went on record as saying that hers was the most persuasive portrayal of the much-maligned Confederate President.7

Memoirs-of-Stonewall-Jackson 50K

T. J. Jackson, needless to say, had never been subjected to such adverse criticism as was visited on President Davis. Consequently, when the widow of the commander of the Second Corps, A. N. Va., published in 18958 her Memoirs of Stonewall Jackson, her audience was in reverent mood. In military narrative Mrs. Jackson did not supplement materially what the diligent R. L. Dabney had written thirty years previously.9 At times she did little more than paraphrase the earlier book. Her contribution was in sharing with the South for the first time numerous letters that Jackson had written her from camp and from battlefield. Interesting letters they were. Often Jackson wrote as if he were at home on Saturday evening and, by conversation on religious topis with his wife, were preparing himself for communion on the Lord's Day. Again it was the time-pressed soldier who scrawled a few lines while the "foot-cavalry" slept uneasily and impatient staff-officers waited in the hall for orders. Twice or thrice, between meek lines of gratitude to God, his sword seemed to flash in the light of ambition. Nearly always, somewhere in the letters, there was a wistful sentence or two: He had been at the Winchester manse where he and Mrs. Jackson had spent happy evenings together in the winter of 1861-62; he was glad his victorious army was encamped near Weyer's Cave, because he remembered that once she had been there. An avowal of his love, an endearing word in the Spanish he had picked up in Mexico fifteen years before---and then he was deep again in his study of the map, or he was off to the front where Ashby's troopers crouched vigilantly behind the walls while their Blakely gun barked defiance. These letters did not explain the man to old soldiers who still cherished the illusion of a mysterious leader of terse commands, night marches and strange gestures. Rather, at the moment, did the letters appear to deepen the contradictions of his character.

Mary Anna Jackson in 1895, 32 years after Stonewall Jackson's death.
Mary Anna Jackson in 1895, 32 years after Stonewall Jackson's death.
General Jackson, painting by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau.
General Jackson, painting by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau.

Mrs. Jackson's experiences during the war were altogether in Virginia and in North Carolina, as were most of those that Mrs. Jefferson Davis records. Several other women who impressively wrote of the war lived on the Atlantic Seaboard and witnessed longest resistance to invasion. Fortunately for the completion of the story, where are in print some diaries and memoirs by women who resided during 1862-64 in districts occupied, if not subjugated, by the Federals.

Two of these diaries, both of deep interest, were written contemporaneously in Louisiana for some months of the war. The Journal of Julia LeGrand10 was kept by a woman of thirty-two who embodied all the elements of romance that an early Victorian novelist would have desired for a heroine. On her mother's side, she was a granddaughter of Robert Morris; her father was the son of a Frenchman of station who had come to America not long before the stirring days of the Bastile. The younger LeGrand, educated in France, was a colonel in the American War of 1812 and later was a wealthy planter in Maryland. Attracted by the larger agricultural opportunities of the Mississippi Valley, he sold his holdings and bought an estate in Louisiana. For the period of Julia's girlhood, he lived as a grand seigneur. In the spring and autumn he entertained on his plantation; in winter, he went to New Orleans with his daughters and a retinue of servants and had a suite at The St. Charles for the season of the opera; in summer, his daughters journeyed to the Virginia springs.

Julia LeGrand, from her book, The Journal of Julia LeGrand.
Julia LeGrand, from her book, The Journal of Julia LeGrand.

Julia adorned and enjoyed this rich social life. She wore long trailing white gowns, had a great dog as an attendant, "played very beautifully upon an old harp that had a history," and was "full of romantic fancies." Besides, she had a great sorrow. Her lover, too poor to win her father's approval, had gone to Mexico to seek a fortune. Stage by stage, with ardent protestation, he had written back of his adventures. Then the letters stopped abruptly. He had advanced on horseback from the wagon-train in a wild country, Julia subsequently ascertained, and had never returned. The supposition was that he and all his companions had been killed by the Indians. Julia LeGrand could do no more than grieve and make him the hero, under the name Guy Fontenoy, of an unpublished novel. After this tragedy came a darker: Colonel LeGrand died; his estate evaporated; Julia and her sister, Virginia, left penniless, went to New Orleans and opened a "select school for girls."11 The two ladies were earning a very modest living in this manner when the crash of war came. Their brother Claude hurried to Virginia with the first Louisiana volunteers. The sisters perforce remained where they were, until the city fell, and then for months they were refugees in Mississippi. As the Federal advance threatened their haven, they went to Georgia and helped to nurse Johnston's sick and wounded. In the end, they moved to Texas to live with their brother, who, meantime, had lost an arm at Port Republic. Romance returned with peace: Julia LeGrand in May, 1867, married a German, Adolph Waitz, described as a "gentleman of fine abilities and attainments."

These details of Julia LeGrand's career prepare the reader for a sentimental diary, which is distinctly what Julia LeGrand's is not. Much of it was destroyed. What remains covers briefly the events of December, 1861-December, 1862, and, in detail, those of January-April, 1863. It is an intelligent, direct and honest narrative of what happened in the city and in the temporary havens she subsequently reached. Occasionally there is a Byronic phrase, but page by page, the story is one of neighbors' woes, of personal hardship stoically endured, and---what is unusual in extant diaries---of hopes raised one day and dashed the next by reading the newspapers. More clearly than perhaps any other war-time writer, Julia LeGrand exhibits the dependence of those "within the enemy's lines," on hostile papers or on the few friendly journals that reached far-off inland villages.

Sarah Fowler Morgan Dawson, author of A Confederate Girl's Diary.
Sarah Fowler Morgan Dawson, author of A Confederate Girl's Diary.

The second of the familiar Louisiana diaries is that of a girl of twenty, Sarah Fowler Morgan, daughter of Judge Thomas Gibbes Morgan. The judge opposed the secession of his State but, when Louisiana left the Union, he accepted her verdict as binding on him. Three of his sons entered the Confederate service, but the fourth and oldest, himself a judge in New Orleans, adhered to the Union, though he refused to fight against his own kind. Of Sarah Morgan's sisters, one was the wife of a Federal Colonel in California, and one was living at her father's home in Baton Rouge with her five children. The remaining sister, Miriam, was Sarah's closest companion and, like her, was unmarried. Rarely was a Gulf State family so divided and even more rarely did those of differing political conviction seek more consistently to help one another. After the death of the senior Judge Morgan in November, 1861, the pro-Union Judge Morgan did his utmost to care for his mother and his sisters, and in time arranged for them to come to New Orleans if they would take the oath of allegiance to the United States,. How they fared when necessity compelled them to accept the judge's offer is set forth by Sarah Morgan in her diary, under date of April 22, 1863:12

When we at last entered the canal, I beheld the animal now so long unseen, the Yankee. In their dark blue uniforms, they stood around, but I thought of the dear gray coats, and even the picket of Madisonville seemed nobler and greater men than these. Immediately a guard was placed on board, we whispering before he came, "Our dear Confederates, God bless them."

We had agree among ourselves that come what would, we would preserve our dignity and self-respect, and do anything rather than create a scene among such people. It is well that we agreed. So we whispered quietly among ourselves, exhorting each other to pay no attention to the remarks the Yankees made about us as we  passed, and acting the martyr to perfection, until we came to Hickock's Landing. Here there was a group of twenty Yankees. Two officers came up and asked us for papers; we said we had none. In five minutes one came back, and asked if we had taken the oath. No; We had never taken any. He then took down our names. Mother was alone in the coop. He asked if there was not another. The schooner had fifteen passengers, and we had given only fourteen names. Mother then came up and gave her name, going back soon after.

While one went after our passes, others came to examine our baggage. I could not but smile as an unfortunate young man got on his knees before our trunk and respectfully handled our dirty petticoats and stockings. "You have gone through it before," he said. "Of course, the Confederates searched it."---"Indeed they did not touch it!" I exclaimed. "They never think of doing such work."---"Miss, it is more mortifying to me than it can be to you," he answered. And I saw he was actually blushing. He did his work as delicately as possible, and when he returned the keys asked if we had letters. I opened my box and put them into his hand . . . Then came a bundle of papers on board carried by another, who standing in front of us, cried in a startling way, "Sarah Morgan!"---"Here" (very quietly). ---"Stand up!"---"I cannot (firmly)---"Why not?"---"Unable" (decisively). After this brief dialogue, he went on with the others until all were standing except myself, when he delivered to each a strip of paper that informed the people that Miss, or Mrs. So-and-So had taken and subscribed the oath as Citizen of the United States. I thought that was all, and rejoiced at our escape. But after another pause he uncovered his head and told us to hold up our right hands. Half-crying, I covered my face with mine and prayed breathlessly for the boys and the Confederacy, so that I heard not a word he was saying until the question, "So help you God?" struck my ear. I shuddered and prayed harder. There came an awful pause in which not a lip was moved. Each felt as though in a nightmare, until, throwing down his blank book, the officer pronounced it "All right!" Strange to say, I experience no change. I prayed as hard as ever for the boys and our country, and felt no nasty or disagreeable feeling which would have announced the process of turning Yankee.

Then it was that mother commenced. He turned to the mouth of the diminutive cave, and asked if she was ready to take the oath. "I suppose I have to, since I belong to you," she replied. "No, madam, you are not obliged; we force no one. Can you state your objections?" "Yes, I have three sons fighting against you, and you have robbed me, beggared  me!" she exclaimed, launching into a speech in which Heaven knows what she did not say; there was little she left out, from her despoiled house to her sore hand, both of which she attributed to the at first amiable man, who was rapidly losing all patience. Faint with hunger, dizzy with sleeplessness, she had wrought on her own feelings until her nerves were beyond control. She was determined to carry it out, and crying and sobbing went through with it.

I neither spoke nor moved. . . . The officer walked off angrily and sent for a guard to have mother taken before General Bowens. Once through her speech, mother yielded to the entreaties of the ladies and professed herself ready to take the oath, since she was obliged to. "Madam, I did not invite you to come," said the polite officer, who refused to administer the oath; and putting several soldiers on board, ordered them to keep all on board until one could report to General Bowens. Mother retired to the cabin, while we still kept our seats above.

Despite her plain speech, Mrs. Morgan finally took the oath after her son the judge procured permission for her and his sisters to land in New Orleans. Sarah was relieved and miserable, glad that her mother could have some comforts, but for herself, humiliated that she had taken an oath she could not respect. Here are the reflections she entered in her diary June 21:13

How about that oath of allegiance? is what I frequently ask myself, and always an uneasy qualm of conscience troubles me. Guilty of not guilty of perjury? According to the law of God in the abstract, and of nations, Yes; according to my conscience, Jeff Davis, and the peculiar position I was placed in, No. Which is it? Had I had any idea that such a pledge would be exacted, would I have been willing to come? Never! The thought would have horrified me. The reality was never placed before me until we reached Bonfouca. There I was terrified at the prospect; but seeing how impossible it would be to go back, I placed all my hopes in some miracle that was to intervene to prevent such a crime, and confidently believed my ill health or something else would save me, while all the rest of the party declared they would think it nothing, and take forty oaths a day, if necessary. A forced oath, all men agree, is not binding. The Yankees lay particular stress on this being voluntary, and insist that no one is solicited to take it except of their own free will. Yet look at the scene that followed, when mother showed herself unwilling! Think of being ordered to the Custom-House as a prisoner for saying she supposed she would have to! That's liberty! that is free will! It is entirely optional; you have only to take it quietly or go to jail. That is freedom enough, certainly! There was not even that choice left to me. I told the officer who took down my name that I was unwilling to take the oath, and asked if there was no escaping it. "none whatever" was his reply. "You have it to do, and there is no getting out of it." His rude tone frightened me into half-crying; but for all that, as he said, I had it to do. If perjury it is, which will God punish: me, who was unwilling to commit the crime, or the man who forced me to it?

Sarah Morgan had not the heart to write lengthy entries after she went to New Orleans, She was by the waters of Babylon in her own land. Finally, in January, 1865, the family received notice within a week that George and Gibbes Morgan, two of the Confederate sons of the house, were dead. The bitter cry of the girl is too sacred, even now, to be quoted. On May 2, 1865, when the first grief was past, she wrote:

While praying for the return of those who have fought so nobly for us, how I have dreaded their first days at home! Since the boys died, I have constantly thought of what pain it would bring to see their comrades return without them---to see families reunited, and know what ours never could be again, save in heaven. Last Saturday the 29th of April, seven hundred and fifty paroled Louisianians from Lee's army were brought here---the sole survivors of ten regiments who left four years ago so full of hope and determination,. On the 29th of April, 1861, George left New Orleans with his regiment. On the fourth anniversary of that day, they came back: but George and Gibbes have long been lying in their graves. . . .14

There is only one entry after that: "Our Confederacy has gone with one crash---the report of the pistol fired at Lincoln."15

Nine years later she married the brilliant Francis Warrington Dawson, an English writer who joined the Confederate army, rose to the rank of captain and subsequently became the editor of the Charleston News and Courier. She never intended her diary to be printed and, in fact, wrote explicit instructions that it be burned, but on the plea of her son, Warrington Dawson, gave it to him. In 1913 he issued it under the title A Confederate Girl's Diary. In his introduction, Mr. Dawson remarks that a Philadelphian to whom his mother loaned a transcript of the diary returned it "with cold regrets that the temptation to rearrange it had not been resisted." The critic maintained, to quote Mr. Dawson's words, "No Southerner at that time could possibly have had opinions so just or foresight so clear as those here attributed to a young girl."16 Mr. Dawson denied flatly that the diary was "rearranged." The printed text, said he, conformed in every way to the original in his possession, except for the omission of a few matters entirely personal.

Capt. Francis Warrington Dawson, CSA, from England, later editor of the Chas. News and Courier.
Capt. Francis Warrington Dawson, CSA, from England, later editor of the Chas. News and Courier.

He might well have added that the "just opinions" which created doubts in the mind of the critic were not illogical in a judge's daughter who was succored by a judge-brother of tolerant mind and sympathy though of opposing politics. To those unfamiliar with the standards of letter-writing that prevailed in the South prior to the war, the smooth ease of Sarah Morgan's style also may seem spurious. Truth is, letters in those days were for the leisured and cultured a careful exercise in composition,. Young women, in particular, were taught to regard skill in letter-writing as a social accomplishment,. Sarah Morgan wrote her diary precisely as she would have prepared a series of letters,. She was exceptional, yes; but she was not, in any sense, suspiciously unique.

Hannah Lide Coker saved her son, Capt. James Lide Coker, later founder of Coker College.
Hannah Lide Coker saved her son, Capt. James Lide Coker, later founder of Coker College.

No stylistic puzzle is presented by Mrs. Hannah Lide Coker's Story of the Confederate War, which was printed in a small edition for the family and never was circulated outside. It is one of the simplest but most inspiring of all books on the bloody era. Mrs. Coker, wife of Caleb Coker of Society Hill, S. C., gave three sons to the Confederacy: James, a captain in the Sixth South Carolina Volunteers, William of the Eighth, also a captain, and Charles, ordnance sergeant of the same regiment. Charles was killed at Malvern Hill; William was wounded and captured at Gettysburg. Then, on the morning of October 30, 1863, came word that James had been hit at Lookout Mountain on October 28. A minie ball had shattered the bone of his right thigh, an inch and a half below the hip joint. He asked that his mother, his wife and the family physician come to him, but his wife, nee Susan Short, was within three weeks of confinement. The senior Mrs. Coker and the physician set out at once, while all Society Hill lamented. James Lide Coker had been at Harvard under Agassiz and Asa Gray and already had organized at Hartsville an agricultural society to advance scientific methods. South Carolina had not more promising young planter than this infantry captain of twenty-six.

Mrs. Coker's Story is that of her journey to the front and of her nursing of her boy who, within a short time, was left on his back, splinted from foot to shoulder, within the Federal lines. There is not a suggestion in her narrative that she felt she was doing anything unusual, and certainly nothing heroic. All her emphasis is on the cheerfulness of her son, on the fidelity of the sergeant who voluntarily remained to attend him, and on the manner in which, whenever food or money gave out, aid somehow came,. She records gratefully that among the many Federal officers whom she met during nearly nine months, in Tennessee, at Louisville, on the long journey to Baltimore and thence to Fort Monroe, only two were rude to her. Most of them were sympathetic and helpful. While these glimpses of the Federal treatment of a captured officer are creditable to the Army, and especially to the medical corps, the reader, whose eyes soon will be dimmed as he turns the pages, will conclude that Hannah Lide Coker possessed superb tact and fortitude. Well was she recompensed for her service! Major James Lide Coker recovered, became one of the greatest industrialists of the South, founded Coker College, brought new hope to agriculture in the Carolinas, lived to be eighty-one, and begot great sons. One of them, the brilliant David R. Coker, probably advanced plant-breeding more than did any man who ever lived in the South.

Rear of Davidson Hall, Coker Univ., Hartsville, SC, photo courtesy of Jud McCranie.
Rear of Davidson Hall, Coker Univ., Hartsville, SC, photo courtesy of Jud McCranie.

Of a dozen other interesting books by Confederate women, none excels that of Mrs. Cornelia McDonald, A Diary with Reminiscences of the War and Refugee Life.17 During her residence in Winchester, the second wife of Col. Angus McDonald kept a regular diary from March, 1862, to August, 1863. This was supplemented by a narrative she put together in 1875. The whole is one of the most thrilling of the war books, and, had it been published for general circulation, it would have made a sensation. From her photographs, Mrs. McDonald must have been a woman of great dignity of person. She possessed high intelligence and unshakable moral courage, as every page of her diary shows, but she could not endure the sight of acute physical pain. About as much of the misery of war as ever comes within the vision of one woman is to be read in her account of the battle of Kernstown, March 23, 1862.

Cornelia McDonald, author of A Diary with Reminiscences of the War and Refugee Life.
Cornelia McDonald, author of A Diary with Reminiscences of the War and Refugee Life.

She was home with a young baby; her husband and his elder sons by his first marriage were away with their regiments; only the younger of her step-sons had been in Winchester that day, and they had gone out to witness the battle. Long and anxiously she waited for the lads in the chill of the evening. Now hear her:

About nine o'clock they came in, very grave and sad looking. Indeed they seemed not like the same boys, so sad and unnatural was their expression. . . . All the careless happiness had gone from the faces and manner of the boys, and though there was no sign of fright or of excitement, they were very grave and sorrowful; disappointed, too, as we had lost the battle, and they had been compelled to see the Southern troops sullenly withdraw after the bloody struggle. . . . They told of the prolonged fight behind the stone wall, of the repeated onset of our men, and the rolling back of the blue columns, as regiment after regiment was repulsed by the Confederates, till at last, outnumbered and borne back, they had retired from the field, leaving behind the dead and dying, and even their wounded. When the boys told of the retreat their anger and mortification found relief in tears, but they were tears of pity when they told of the wounded. They remained for a while to give water to some, and would have gladly done more, but were hurried away by the sentinels. "I was mortified all the time," said Allan, "because we had to stay on the Yankee side."18

The next day Mrs. McDonald went into Winchester to aid in caring for the wounded. She wrote: "I wanted to be useful, and tried my best, but at the sight of one face that the surgeon uncovered, telling me that it must be washed, I thought I should faint. It was that of a Captain Jones of a Tennessee regiment. A ball had struck him on the side of the face, taking both eyes and the bridge of his nose. It was a frightful spectacle. I stood as the surgeon explained how, and why he might be saved, and the poor fellow not aware of the awful sight his eyeless face was, with the fearful wound still fresh and bleeding, joined in the talk, and, raising his hand put his finger on his left temple and said, 'Ah! if they had only struck me there, I should have troubled no one.' The surgeon asked me if I would wash his wound. I tried to say yes, but the thought of it made me so faint that I could only stagger toward the door. As I passed, my dress brushed against a pile of amputated limbs heaped up near the door."19

That [meaning all the accounts in Chapter VI as published in my two blog posts] is what war means to women.

End of Part II.


1 Douglas Southall Freeman, The South to Posterity (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1939).

2 New York (Belford Co.), 1890; 2 v.

3 The word, "pathetic", in the past, was often used to refer to something dealing with the emotions. A synonym would be "sympathetic" in today's usage. The New Oxford American Dictionary, Third Edition, says: ORIGIN late 16th cent. (in the sense 'affecting the emotions'): via late Latin from Greek pathetikos "sensitive,' based on pathos 'suffering.'

4 Recollections Grave and Gay, New York (Scribners), 1916, p. 70.

5 T. C. De Leon, op, cit., p. 67.

6 This account of the life of Mrs. Davis in Richmond is revised from D. S. Freeman, "When War Came to Richmond," published in the Bicentennial Supplement of the Richmond News Leader, Sept. 8, 1937.

7 History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850, New York (Macmillan), 1920, v. 5, pp. 169-170. Mr. Rhodes noted: "The forfeiture by Mrs. Davis of the copyright of her book, through an informality, gave the American Congress an opportunity for a graceful deed. In 1893, the Senate and the House unanimously passed an act restoring the rights and privileges of copyright . . ."

8 Louisville, Ky. (The Prentice Press).

9 See supra, pp. 37 ff.

10 Edited by Kate Mason Rowland and Mrs. Morris L. Croxall, Richmond (Waddey), 1911.

11 All these facts are from the biographical sketch that precedes the Journal.

12 Sarah Morgan Dawson, A Confederate Girl's Diary, with an Introduction by Warrington Dawson, Boston (Houghton, Mifflin), 1913, pp. 381 ff.

13 Ibid., pp. 392-93.

14 Ibid., pp. 439-40.

15 Ibid., p. 440.

16 Ibid., p. xi.

17 Nashville (Cullom & Ghertner), 1934.

18 Op. cit., pp. 52, 53.

19 Op. cit., p. 55.

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