Sunday, March 10, 2013

March 10, 1863: The diary of Sarah Morgan Dawson

March 10th, Tuesday.

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I had so many nice things to say—which now, alas, are knocked forever from my head—when news came that the Yankees were advancing on us, and were already within fifteen miles. The panic which followed reminded me forcibly of our running days in Baton Rouge. Each one rapidly threw into trunks all clothing worth saving, with silver and valuables, to send to the upper plantation. I sprang up, determined to leave instantly for Clinton so mother would not be alarmed for our safety; but before I got halfway dressed, Helen Carter came in, and insisted on my remaining, declaring that my sickness and inability to move would prove a protection to the house, and save it from being burned over their heads. Put on that plea, though I have no faith in melting the bowels of compassion of a Yankee, myself, I consented to remain, as Miriam urgently represented the dangers awaiting Clinton. So she tossed all we owned into our trunk to send to mother as hostage of our return, and it is now awaiting the cars. My earthly possessions are all reposing by me on the bed at this instant, consisting of my guitar, a change of clothes, running-bag, cabas, and this book. For in spite of their entreaties, I would not send it to Clinton, expecting those already there to meet with a fiery death—though I would like to preserve those of the most exciting year of my life. They tell me that this will be read aloud to me to torment me, but I am determined to burn it if there is any danger of that. Why, I would die without some means of expressing my feelings in the stirring hours so rapidly approaching. I shall keep it by me.

Such bustle and confusion! Every one hurried, anxious, excited, whispering, packing trunks, sending them off; wondering negroes looking on in amazement until ordered to mount the carts waiting at the door, which are to carry them too away. How disappointed the Yankees will be at finding only white girls instead of their dear sisters and brothers whom they love so tenderly! Sorry for their disappointment!

"They say" they are advancing in overwhelming numbers. That is nothing, so long as God helps us, and from our very souls we pray His blessing on us in this our hour of need. For myself, I cannot yet fully believe they are coming. It would be a relief to have it over. I have taken the responsibility of Lydia's jewelry on my shoulders, and hope to be able to save it in the rush which will take place. Down at the cars Miriam met Frank Enders, going to Clinton in charge of a car full of Yankees,—deserters, who came into our lines. He thinks, just as I do, that our trunks are safer here than there. Now that they are all off, we all agree that it was the most foolish thing we could have done. These Yankees interfere with all our arrangements.

I am almost ashamed to confess what an absurdly selfish thought occurred to me a while ago. I was lamenting to myself all the troubles that surround us, the dangers and difficulties that perplex us, thinking of the probable fate that might befall some of our brave friends and defenders in Port Hudson, when I thought, too, of the fun we would miss. Horrid, was it not? But worse than that, I was longing for something to read, when I remembered Frank told me he had sent to Alexandria for Bulwer's "Strange Story" for me, and then I unconsciously said, "How I wish it would get here before the Yankees!" I am very anxious to read it, but confess I am ashamed of having thought of it at such a crisis. So I toss up the farthing Frank gave me for a keepsake the other day, and say I'll try in future to think less of my own comfort and pleasure.

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