Kate Stone’s Civil War: They call us all renegades
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.
Two carriage accidents, a large rattlesnake, and a dirty house all inspire Stone to call Texas “the dark corner of the Confederacy.”
Aug. 30, 1863
“Elysian Fields,” Lamar County, Texas
I must record the first instance of liberality that has come under our notice since entering the state. The first night after leaving Tyler we stayed at a Mr. Fowler’s, a very nice place, and they did not charge us a cent. But we were picked up the next night. We lost our way and traveled until 8 o’clock when we asked to stay at a pretty, large, white house, white only on the outside. I despair of giving any idea of the dirt. We tried to eat without seeing or tasting and to sleep without touching the bed. They gave us coffee, a horrid decoction of burnt wheat and milk without sugar, in saucers and water in the halves of broken bottles. The table was set in the dirtiest of kitchens with a dirt floor and half a dozen half-naked little Negroes and numberless cats and dogs scampering through the room and under the table. The rafters were festooned with old hoop skirts and worn-out, rough boots. It surpassed any place we have been in yet. We certainly had found the dark corner of the Confederacy.
We lost our way again one evening and traveled until way in the night, through a wild woods road dotted with stumps. But it was cool and bright moonlight and really more pleasant than a stuffy dirty room, but the mules and Hoccles did not enjoy it.
Our next adventure was not so pleasant. The mules were rushing down a long, rocky, red hill. Hoccles is a wretched driver and lets them do pretty much as they please when crash! over went the Jersey, and we rolled out on the ground, along with a confused medley of baskets, bundles, palmetto, corn, bonnets, and boxes. Fortunately no serious damage was done, and after a few repairs to the Jersey we journeyed on. Hoccles is a right good tinker for wagons.
But our troubles were not yet over. The mules were trotting briskly along through the white sand, Mamma was asleep sitting in the foot of the Jersey, and I was knitting away, when there was a sudden cluck and tearing sound. I looked up to see the whole top of our devoted Jersey folding back like a fan. While Hoccles was nodding in the sultry heat, we had run into a tree and broken the top nearly entirely off. Mamma gave a groan and exclaimed, “Now Hoccles, just run us over a stump and break the wheels and maybe you will be satisfied. You have broken the bottom racing down the hill. But that would not do you. You had to go and break the top. Now run over a rock and break the wheels and you will be fixed!”
I could not help laughing. It was funny in spite of our bad plight, and poor Hoccles looked so humble and apologetic. We thought he would be forced to take the entire top off, but he was equal to the emergency. With hammer, nail, and strings, he patched it up so it lasted until we reached home. But it is a most forlorn, lopsided affair. If we just had our own good carriage, but we hear it is a smallpox ambulance now.
Our last day we just missed driving over the largest rattlesnake, stretched across the road basking in the sun. It was larger than my arm and had twelve rattles. That frightened us most of all. It might have glided into the carriage as we drove over it. …
A long letter from Julia Street was awaiting me. … She says she hates Arkansas and wants to come to Texas. I am sure she will hate this state ten times more. If she is a wise girl, she will stay where she is as long as possible. The more we see of the people, the less we like them, and every refugee we have seen feels the same way. They call us all renegades in Tyler. It is strange the prejudice that exists all through the state against refugees. We think it is envy, just pure envy. The refugees are a nicer and more refined people than most of those they meet, and they see and resent the difference. That is the way we flatter ourselves. …