George W. Cable, ed., “A Woman’s Diary of the Siege of Vicksburg,” Century 30, no. 5 (September 1885): 769.
Transcription adapted from “A Woman’s Diary of the Siege of Vicksburg” (1885), edited by George W. Cable
Adapted by Don Sailer, Dickinson College
The following transcript has been adapted from “A Woman’s Diary of the Siege of Vicksburg” (1885).
Vicksburg, May 1st, 1863. It is settled at last that we shall spend the time of siege in Vicksburg. Ever since we were deprived of our cave, I had been dreading that H would suggest sending me to the country, where his relatives lived. As he could not leave his position and go also without being conscripted, and as I felt certain an army would get between us, it was no part of my plan to be obedient. A shell from one of the practicing mortars brought the point to an issue yesterday and settled it. Sitting at work as usual, listening to the distant sound of bursting shells, apparently aimed at the court-house, there suddenly came a nearer explosion; the house shook, and a tearing sound was followed by terrified screams from the kitchen. I rushed thither, but met in the hall the cooks little girl America, bleeding from a wound in the forehead, and fairly dancing with fright and pain, while she uttered fearful yells. I stopped to examine the wound, and her mother bounded in, her black face ashy from terror. Oh! Miss V , my child is killed and the kitchen tore up. Seeing America was too lively to be a killed subject, I consoled Martha and hastened to the kitchen. Evidently a shell had exploded just outside, sending three or four pieces through. When order was restored I endeavored to impress on Marthas mind the necessity for calmness and the uselessness of such excitement. Looking round at the close of the lecture, there stood a group of Confederate soldiers laughing heartily at my sermon and the promising audience I had. They chimed in with a parting chorus:
“Yes, its no use hollerin, old lady.”
“Oh! H ---- ,” I exclaimed, as he entered soon after, “America is wounded.”
“That is no news; she has been wounded by traitors long ago.”
“Oh, this is real, living, little, black America; I am not talking in symbols. Here are the pieces of shell, the first bolt of the coming siege.” “Now you see, he replied, that this house will be but paper to mortar-shells. You must go in the country.”
The argument was long, but when a woman is obstinate and eloquent, she generally conquers. I came off victorious, and we finished preparations for the siege to-day. Hiring a man to assist, we descended to the wine-cellar, where the accumulated bottles told of the “banquet-hall deserted,” the spirit and glow of the festive hours whose lights and garlands were dead, and the last guest long since departed. To empty this cellar was the work of many hours. Then in the safest corner a platform was laid for our bed, and in another portion one arranged for Martha. The dungeon, as I call it, is lighted only by a trap-door, and is so damp it will be necessary to remove the bedding and mosquito-bars every day. The next question was of supplies. I had nothing left but a sack of rice-flour, and no manner of cooking I had heard or invented contrived to make it eatable. A column of recipes for making delicious preparations of it had been going the rounds of Confederate papers. I tried them all; they resulted only in brick-bats, or sticky paste. H sallied out on a hunt for provisions, and when he returned the disproportionate quantity of the different articles obtained provoked a smile. There was a hogshead of sugar, a barrel of sirup, ten pounds of bacon and peas, four pounds of wheat-flour, and a small sack of corn-meal, a little vinegar, and actually some spice! The wheat-flour he purchased for ten dollars as a special favor from the sole remaining barrel for sale. We decided that must be kept for sickness. The sack of meal, he said, was a case of corruption, through a special providence to us. There is no more for sale at any price, but, said he, a soldier who was hauling some of the Government sacks to the hospital offered me this for five dollars, if I could keep a secret. When the meal is exhausted perhaps we can keep alive on sugar. Here are some wax candles; hoard them like gold. He handed me a parcel containing about two pounds of candles, and left me to arrange my treasures…