Kate Stone’s Civil War: The dark corner
From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.
Kate Stone despised her new wartime home. After two weeks, she decided that Texas was home only to deadly snakes, fleas “by the millions,” ignorant children, and ugly women. “There must be something in the air of Texas,” she wrote, “fatal to beauty.”
July 7, 1863
Lamar County, Texas
While camping out we were generally too tired at our noonday rest to do anything but throw ourselves down on the cushions and sleep until dinner. And at night when we stopped, I had only spirit to lean lazily back in one of our two rocking chairs and watch Annie get supper or to look up at the stars and think of all the dear friends that the waves of Fate are sweeping farther and farther away from us every day. I had such a longing for home and the dear life of the past that my very soul would grow sick. I know Mamma felt it far more than I did, but she would not complain.
I will copy a letter I wrote to Anna Dobbs which tells all there is to tell of our late journeyings:
“Here we are safely hidden in a dark corner of the far off County of Lamar after a tiresome, monotonous trip of little less than three weeks, and I am already as disgusted as I expected to be.
“This part of the land abounds in white-headed children and buttermilk, my two pet aversions. It is a place where the people are just learning that there is a war going on, where Union feeling is rife, and where the principal amusement of loyal citizens is hanging suspected Jayhawkers. Hoops are just coming in with full fashion. This is indeed the place where hoops ‘most do flourish and abide. Have not seen a hoopless lady since entering the state. Shoes are considered rather luxuries than necessaries and are carefully kept for state occasions. … One tin pan or a frying pan answers every purpose. Wash tubs seem obsolete and not to be bought at any price.
“The only way of killing time and one never feels more like killing him than on this desolate wind-swept prairie is to attend some of the protracted meetings that are being carried on all around us. And oh, the swarms of ugly, rough people, different only in degrees of ugliness. There must be something in the air of Texas fatal to beauty. We have not seen a good-looking or educated person since we entered the state. We are in the dark corner. We could not stand it here for a permanent stay, but Mamma has only stopped here for a breathing spell and to see how the Negroes are getting on. She will start out soon in search of a home until the war is over.
“We camped out except when it rained, which it did most of the last week, thereby ruining most of the clothes we had so laboriously amassed after fleeing from the Yankees. We would be so tired by night we welcomed the rudest shelter. The longer we traveled the more wearisome it grew, and I never turned over at night without expecting to feel the sting of a tarantula or centipede. But we really saw very few and reached here without an accident. I wrote to Sarah Wadley never to come to Texas for pleasure, but if forced to come to cover herself with a thin coat of tar to protect herself from the myriads of insects along the road. And here, we have settled at their headquarters ticks, redbugs, fleas by the millions, and snakes gliding through the grass by hundreds. But we rarely hear of anyone being snake-bitten. Game, deer and turkeys are abundant about here but not eatable on account of the insects tormenting them until they are too tough to eat. …
“We are staying right out on the bare prairie in a rough two-room shanty with the overseer and his family. With only the bare necessaries of life, we think it will be at least two months before we can make any change, and so we must needs make the best of it.”