Saturday, December 21, 2013

December 21, 1863: The diary of Mary Boykin Chesnut


In Richmond, Mary Boykin Chesnut continues her busy social life. Chesnut noted that Joseph Johnston had been made commander of the Army of the Tennessee, then ironically enough, took the man who would one day replace him for a carriage ride.  The ladies of Richmond were making quite a fuss over Major General John Bell Hood.  1863 had been a violent year for Hood.  In early July, at Gettysburg, Hood had been severely wounded in his left arm, which was maimed for the rest of his life.  In November, at Chickamauga, his right leg was amputated four inches below the hip--the kind of injury few men survived in that day and age.  Even as he convalesced, "Sam" Hood continued his doomed courtship of Sally "Buck" Buchanan Preston--and Chesnut apparently served as chaperone.
December 21st. - Joe Johnston has been made Commander-in-chief of the Army of the West. General Lee had this done, `tis said. Miss Agnes Lee and "little Robert" (as they fondly call General Lee's youngest son in this hero-worshiping community) called. They told us the President, General Lee, and General Elzey had gone out to look at the fortifications around Richmond. My husband came home saying he had been with them, and lent General Lee his gray horse.

Mrs. Howell, Mrs. Davis's mother, says a year ago on the cars a man said, "We want a Dictator." She replied, "Jeff Davis will never consent to be a Dictator." The man turned sharply toward her "And, pray, who asks him? Joe Johnston will be made Dictator by the Army of the West." "Imperator" was suggested. Of late the Army of the West has not been in a condition to dictate to friend or foe. Certainly Jeff Davis did hate to put Joe Johnston at the head of what is left of it. Detached from General Lee, what a horrible failure is Longstreet! Oh, for a day of Albert Sidney Johnston out West! And Stonewall, could he come back to us here!

General Hood, the wounded knight, came for me to drive. I felt that I would soon find myself chaperoning some girls, but I asked no questions. He improved the time between Franklin and Cary Streets by saying, "I do like your husband so much." "So do I," I replied simply.

Buck was ill in bed, so William said at the door, but she recovered her health and came down for the drive in black velvet and ermine, looking queenly. And then, with the top of the landau thrown back, wrapped in furs and rugs, we had a long drive that bitter cold day.

One day as we were hieing us home from the Fair Grounds, Sam, the wounded knight, asked Brewster what are the symptoms of a man's being in love. Sam (Hood is called Sam entirely, but why I do not know) said for his part he did not know; at seventeen he had fancied himself in love, but that was "a long time ago." Brewster spoke on the symptoms of love: "When you see her, your breath is apt to come short. If it amounts to mild strangulation, you have got it bad. You are stupidly jealous, glowering with jealousy, and have a gloomy fixed conviction that she likes every fool you meet better than she does you, especially people that you know she has a thorough contempt for; that is, you knew it before you lost your head, I mean, before you fell in love. The last stages of unmitigated spooniness, I will spare you," said Brewster, with a giggle and a wave of the hand. "Well," said Sam, drawing a breath of relief, "I have felt none of these things so far, and yet they say I am engaged to four young ladies, a liberal allowance, you will admit, for a man who can not walk without help."

Another day (the Sabbath) we called on our way from church to see Mrs. Wigfall. She was ill, but Mr. Wigfall insisted upon taking me into the drawing-room to rest a while. He said Louly was there; so she was, and so was Sam Hood, the wounded knight, stretched at full length on a sofa and a rug thrown over him. Louis Wigfall said to me: "Do you know General Hood?" "Yes," said I, and the General laughed with his eyes as I looked at him; but he did not say a word. I felt it a curious commentary upon the reports he had spoken of the day before. Louly Wigfall is a very handsome girl.

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