As the war
dragged on, hardship on the southern home front grew intense.
In the besieged city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, families sought
refuge in cliffside caves. A stray shell left one child, Lucy
McCrae, buried under a mass of earth. “The blood was gushing
from my nose, eyes, ears, and mouth,” she later wrote, “but
no bones were broken.” Youngsters participated in bread
riots in Richmond, Virginia; Montgomery, Alabama; Raleigh, North
Carolina; and Columbia, South Carolina. A Richmond girl defended
the looting: “We are starving. As soon as enough of us get
together we are going to take the bakeries and each of us will
take a loaf of bread. That is little enough for the government
to give us after it has taken all our men.”
I was too young in the fifties to appreciate political
questions, but, even so, I saw the foreshadowing of trouble.
spirit ran high and in 1858 there were three uniformed military
companies in Talbot County. Added to these there were two
of cadets, one at Trappe, commanded by George M. Jenk¬ins,
and one at St. Michaels, commanded by myself, then about thirteen
years old. My company was very martial in spirit, though we
very juvenile, the members ranging in age from ten to fifteen
As war drew near feeling ran high in Maryland. Abolitionists
were working among the slaves, persuad¬ing them to desert.
During the year 1859 it is believed that John Brown was on
Shore secretly inciting the slaves to rise and attack the whites.
At this time an excited slave confessed to her mistress that
was a plot to attack the whites that night. This news spread
rapidly and precautions were taken at once by the men to protect
homes and families.
cadet company was called on to do duty and set to guard
the roads. We were proud to undertake
the task and on this
occasion we were pro¬vided with real guns. I am glad
to say there was no need of guns of any kind, as no attack
Seth in Joseph B. Seth and Mary W. Seth,
of a Long Life on the Eastern Shore, 25 27
these few months, my childhood had slipped away from me….
Necessity, human obligations, family pride and patriotism
taken entire possession of my little emaciated body.
Fremaux, who was a twelve year old in Baton Rouge, Louisiana,
when the war began.
in Werner, Reluctant Witnesses, 154
was ten-years-old today. I did not have a cake. Times are
hard…. I hope that by my next birthday, we will have peace
in our land.
Berry of Atlanta in August 1864. Quoted in Werner, Reluctant
hav nothing to write only that I hope that this dreadful war will
soon be over and you will get home safe for o papy should eny
thing happen I know it would kill mammy and when I was sick I
was so fraid I would die and not get to see you but I am spared
and hope to see you again.
Lewis of Ebensburg, Pennsylvania, whose father, Captain Andrew
Lewis, died in July 1862
near Richmond. Quoted in Werner, Reluctant
Dear Dear Father:
I do want to see you so much. I do miss you so much in the evening
when I come in and no one is in, and I am so lonesome by myself
and if you were here you would tell me stories and so I would
not be lonesome…. Write to me what your horse is named…..
The Yankees have not got near the city yet. The other day some
heavy firing was heard and it was them firing into one of our
Loulie Gilmore, quoted in Werner, Reluctant Witnesses, 20
the year 1860, the Abolitionists became strong enough to
one of their men for President. Abraham Lincoln was a weak man,
and the South believed he would allow laws to be made, which
deprive them of their rights. So the Southern States seceded
and elected Jefferson Davis for their President. This so
Lincoln that he declared war, and has exhausted nearly all the
strength of the nation, in a vain attempt to whip the South
into the Union. Thousands of lives have been lost, and the earth
has been drenched with blood; but still Abraham is unable
the “Rebels” as he calls the South. The South only
asked to be let alone, and to divide the public property equally.
It would have been wise of the North to have said to her Southern
sisters, “If you are not content to dwell with us any longer,
depart in peace.”
B. Moore, The Geographical Reader for the Dixie Children,
quoted in Werner, Reluctant Witnesses, 54
How dreadfully sick I am of this war. Trully we girls whose lot
it is to grow up in these times are unfortunate! It commenced
when I was thirteen, and I am now seventeen and no prospect yet
of its ending. No pleasure, no enjoyment - nothing but rigid economy
and hard work - nothing but the stern realities of life. Those
which should come later are made familiar to us at an age when
only gladness should surround us. We have only the saddest anticipations
and the dread of hardships and cares when bright dreams of the
future ought to shine on us. I have seen little of the light-heartedness
and exuberant joy that people talk about as the natural heritage
of youth. It is a hard school to be bred up in and I often wonder
if I will ever have my share of fun and happiness. If it had not
been for my books it would indeed have been hard to bear. But
in them I have lived and found my chief source of pleasure. I
would take refuge in them from the sadness all around if it were
not for other work to be done. I do all my own sewing now besides
helping mother some. Now that everything is lost perhaps we will
all have to work for a living before long. I would far rather
do that and bear much more than submit to the Yankees.
LeConte of Columbia, South Carolina, Diary, 1864-1865, 13
12  We were fritened almost to death last night. Some mean
soldiers set several houses on fire in different parts of the
town. I could not go to sleep for fear that they would set our
house on fire. We all dred the next few days to come for they
said they would set the last house on fire if they had to leave
16 Oh what a night we had. They came burning the store house
about night it looked like the whole town was on fire. We all
set up all night. If we had not sat up our house would have
burnt up for the fire was very near and the soldiers were going
around setting houses on fire where they were not watched.
behaved very badly. They all left town about one o’clock
this evening and we were glad when they left for nobody knows
what we have suffered since they came in.
Carrie Berry of Atlanta, Georgia, quoted in Werner, Reluctant
streets and vacant lots were filled with homeless families,
nothing but the clothes they wore; when bringing bedding, raiment
or provisions out of their burning homes, these were destroyed
by the brutal soldiers. They stole much that was useless to them,
for even Bibles were taken…. The yards and gardens
were perforated with bayonets, men searching for buried treasure.
unidentified girl in Winnsboro, North Carolina, quoted in Werner,
Reluctant Witnesses, 130
ventured to a front window that faced the two roads leading
the capital…. Looking out I screamed in horror [at]
the rush of Yankee ruffians…. All day long the men
and wagons poured into town…. No yards, no gardens
were spared in our ill-fated village…. The soldiers…would
walk up the steps of the back veranda on which we stood,
and throwing down
the hams and shoulders of our meat, would cut them up…in
our very faces.
they found the sugar, flour, lard, salt, syrup which mother
had stored away in a cellar dug beneath
one of the Negro houses….
Like statues mother and I stood looking on, and saw them
take all the provisions we had, then kill the milk cow and
about the lot—saw them find the wheat and grain we
had hidden in the attic behind the wall; stood silent and
sad as we saw the
“potato hill” robbed,and knew that now our last hope
for food was gone…. That night we went to bed supperless….
Sadly I had seen the rice, sugar coffee, and lard taken from
storerooms…but sadder now was the thought, “The
cows are killed. I will be so hungry I cannot nurse Baby.”
seventeen-year-old widow with an infant child known only by
from Sandersville, Georgia, quoted in Werner,
Reluctant Witnesses, 121