Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January 15, 1864: The diary of Mary Boykin Chesnut

Brigadier General Alexander R. Lawton, Quartermaster General, C.S. Army
Mirth and melancholy were both a part of the entertainment of senior Confederate officers on this day 150 years ago. Diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut recorded her impressions of a full day of entertainments, including breakfast, dinner, supper, and some amateur theatricals. Many of the officers present were recovering from wounds or captivity in Northern prison camps.

One of Mrs. Chesnut's guests was Brigadier General Alexander R. Lawton, the Quartermaster General of the Confederate Army. Lawton had served with Jackson's Valley Army and the Army of Northern Virginia and had seen fighting in the Valley Campaign, the Seven Days Battles, the Second Battle of Bull Run, and, finally, at the Battle of Antietam, where he was seriously wounded. After months of recovering at home, in August 1863, Lawton was appointed Quartermaster General of the Confederate Army, making him responsible for obtaining supplies for the Confederacy's armies.
January 15th. - What a day the Kentuckians have had! Mrs. Webb gave them a breakfast; from there they proceeded en masse to General Lawton's dinner, and then came straight here, all of which seems equal to one of Stonewall's forced marches. General Lawton took me in to supper. In spite of his dinner he had misgivings. "My heart is heavy," said he, "even here. All seems too light, too careless, for such terrible times. It seems out of place here in battle-scarred Richmond." "I have heard something of that kind at home," I replied. "Hope and fear are both gone, and it is distraction or death with us. I do not see how sadness and despondency would help us. If it would do any good, we would be sad enough."

We laughed at General Hood. General Lawton thought him better fitted for gallantry on the battle-field than playing a lute in my lady's chamber. When Miss Giles was electrifying the audience as the Fair Penitent, some one said: "Oh, that is so pretty!" Hood cried out with stern reproachfulness: "That is not pretty; it is elegant."

Not only had my house been rifled for theatrical properties, but as the play went on they came for my black velvet cloak. When it was over, I thought I should never get away, my cloak was so hard to find. But it gave me an opportunity to witness many things behind the scenes - that cloak hunt did. Behind the scenes! I know a little what that means now.

General Jeb Stuart was at Mrs. Randolph's in his cavalry jacket and high boots. He was devoted to Hetty Cary. Constance Cary said to me, pointing to his stars, "Hetty likes them that way, you know - gilt-edged and with stars."

No comments: