27 October 1864: “the very idea of “reconstruction” sends a thrill of horror and disgust through my veins.”

Item Description: Sarah Lois Wadley, a Louisiana woman, discusses in her diary the events of the preceding two weeks. She describes a trip into town, the behavior of her children, and how they are taking care of a wounded soldier.

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Item Citation: From volume 4 (folder 5) in the Sarah Lois Wadley Papers, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item Transcription:

Thursday, Oct. 27th. 1864.

It has been more than two weeks since I wrote in my journal, I have been watching for a leisure hour, but have had none till this evening.

Miss Mary and I went in town a week ago last Saturday to attend a rehearsal of the famous, oft delayed tableaux; spent the day at Mrs. Stevens’, Mary was not at home, had gone up to see her Uncle about John, who is one of the conscripts lately ordered out, he is extremely deaf and has the disease of the heart besides, but has not succeeded in getting an exemption. We met Mrs. Willson for about five minutes in the morning and afterwards at the meeting; I was very glad to see her, she looks just as neat and pleasant and has as sweet a smile as ever, though I fancied a few unknown wrinkles had planted themselves about her eyes and mouth. She invited us to come out and spend the next week with her, nothing was done about the tableaux that day, but we made an appointment to come in the following Wednesday and remain until after the tableaux on Friday. As we were going to town in the morning we met Mr. Beck and Miss Mary on their way to Homer for Mrs. Barr, we only saw them a moment as they were coming out of the flat. When we returned home we found that Willie had had a chill, we came up stairs immediately to see him, while I was up here Dr. Furness and Dr. Melton came in; I had some curiosity to see the latter, had been sick whenever he had come over before; I dislike him extremely, but I fear I am not quite justifiable in this as the only real cause I have for it is that he openly avows himself a “reconstructionist.” He may be in other respects a good man, but I cannot like one who cherishes these opinions, the very word, the very idea of “reconstruction” sends a thrill of horror and disgust through my veins. Oh! what a shame to our principles, what a wrong to those who have nobly fought and died for our cause; and to the thousands of brave men now in arms, to admit such an idea, if our grievances were so great in time of peace that we could not bear them, what hope of honourable union can we now have! honourable union! I scout the words, there is none such, there is only shame for us, subjugation and national death in the idea of reconstruction. I feel humbled when the word passes my lips.

Poor Willie had a chill again Monday, I had no school either Monday or Tuesday but was busy attending on Willie and preparing to go to town. Tuesday on Father’s return from Monroe he told us that he had met Dr. Needlett at the ferry and that he told him Mrs. Oliver was very dangerously ill. Mother and I went down that evening, we found that she had been quite sick for several days previous, her disease is that distressing affection of the bowels which prevails here so much. I sat up with her part of the night. It is such a solemn thing to sit up by the bedside of one who seems to lie between life and death, the silent hours of the night passed swiftly away. I employed them in all those deep involuntary thoughts which crowd upon us at such a time. Wednesday morning we went to Monroe, spent the day at Mrs. Stevens. Mrs. Willson sent in for us that evening and we went out, Mrs. Copley accompanied us. We found Julia at home, spent a very pleasant evening with her looking over some engravings and discussing tableaux in general and our tableaux in particular, while Mrs. Copley and Capt. Pilcher had a tête à tête in the adjoining room. This Captain Pilcher is a family connection of the Willson’s, and is I think engaged to be married to Julia; I have not, in a long time, met with a gentleman I like so much, his frank engaging manner and pleasant and intelligent conversation win the regard at once, he is so perfectly polite without stiffness, so easy and witty without the slightest familiarity, and so gay without frivolity; at the same time his clear forehead and pure, soft eye bespeak a freedom from the vices which so often tarnish the character of our young men. In truth Julia has made a happy choice, I hope she will marry him, she both deserves and needs a good husband, one to appreciate her sterling qualities and correct her faults. I wish I could reckon Capt. Pilcher among my friends, but I have no idea that our acquaintance will ever progress.

Our visit at Mrs. Willson’s was very delightful but quite short, we spent both Thursday and Friday in town preparing for the tableaux; dined both days with Mrs. Judge Bry, Mrs. Leighton’s Mother, she is such a nice kind old lady, and has such a funny old fashioned house and garden, and Oh such a beautiful little graveyard, there are the gravestones of many of the family, all covered with ivy, and the large, beautiful wild olive tress cast a solemn, tremulous shadow over them. We heard not a sound but our own hushed voices, and the place was so shut in that we saw nothing but the quiet garden through the gate.

There was a great deal of hurry and confusion Friday, but at last everything was ready, and really the tableaux were very pretty, in one scene Mary Stevens looked so beautiful, ordinarily she is a pretty girl but that night it delighted my eyes to look on her. We were obliged to stay at the hall untill all the curtains and things were taken down and put away, I then experienced that feeling described in “Hyperion” in an empty theatre. Miss Mary and Eva stayed at Mrs. Bry’s that night with Julia Willson, but Mrs. Willson, Agnes and I went home, it was late when we reached Limerick, and I was glad indeed to lay my wearied head upon the pillow. I left Mrs. Willson’s soon after breakfast Saturday morning and came into town, spent a few hours very pleasantly with Mary Stevens, and then went up to the Trenton ferry where we found the flat just ready to leave, and passing quickly over stepped into the carriage, which was waiting on this side. The evening was delightful and the roads good so that we felt in good spirits as we rolled on homeward after such a pleasant visit. We found Willie just up, he had been sick ever since we left, and Mother said had missed us sorely, he looks very pale and thin. I hope so much that he will not be sick again, his furlough is almost out and I want him to be well before he leaves home, he got a fine mare yesterday, “swapped” two mules and one old buggy for her, she is not very large, but a pretty form and dark bay color, with a small head and spirited glance, her stoutly formed limbs look like endurance was one of her qualities. Father is away now. He left home last Friday to take the railroad negroes out to Texas; it was this that he wished Willie to come home for, but Willie was too sick to go. Father thought he could not any longer keep the railroad negroes here on his own responsibility, and had no means of feeding and clothing them, so he is going to carry them out to the iron works in Texas, he took a guard of soldiers with him but dismissed them the second day. We were all astounded Sunday evening by the apparition of Father driving up, we soon learned the cause of his coming, eight of the negroes had run away, and he had come back to offer a reward and take measures for their apprehension; five of them have been caught thus far. Father went on immediately to Millhaven and on his return on Monday delayed only to get dinner and then went on again. It was unexpected that the negroes should run away, one of them was one in whom Father placed great confidence, and he had sacrificed so much time and care to them all, that it sems very ungrateful.

I have been very busy all this week. Tuesday just as we were at dinner Mrs. Barr electrified us by coming in with her baby in her arms, we were so glad to see them. Mrs. Barr looks far from well, and feels sad at the idea of leaving her husband, unworthy as he is she feels a strong affection for him, and shows it in her constant attention to him. I thought Miss Mary too looked quietly sad, she is very much devoted to Mrs. Barr’s baby. We had quite a house full that night, Johnny Stone came just before dark, is come to take his sister home. I went down to sit up with Mrs. Oliver Tuesday night, came back in time to breakfast with them all and tell them goodbye; they left immediately after breakfast. Mrs. Oliver is no better; this is the third day that Mother has been with her all day. Johnny and Jimmy Stone came to see us yesterday evening and stayed all night. Jimmy is such a nice boy, I like him exceedingly in spite of his ugly face, it is positively good looking when it is lighted up in conversation by honest good humour and sense. Johnny is, as Mrs. Staunton would say, going through the “puppy state.”

 We have a sick soldier here now, his wife and her Mother came here a little more than a week ago to stay all night; he was very sick and at last they succeeded in getting him over here, we were very sorry for his wife, she stayed with him several days, but was obliged to leave as she was very near her confinement; her Mother stayed with him several days, but as he was improving and she was anxious about her daughter, she left him yesterday. His name is Wallace, he was one of Dr. Furness’ patients, but he did not like their moving him against his advice, and gave him up. Dr. Bluebecker attends him now, he comes over every day to see him, Mother says she thinks he is very kind to him, he has consented that Mr. Wallace shall go home as soon as he is strong enough.

Major Mason dined with Mother Saturday, he was on his way to Alexandria. I should have liked to have seen him.

I am very tired this evening, I have had a fatigueing day; the children have been out of sorts this whole week; Eva was tired and excited by her visit to Limerick and has scarcely recovered from it, while Loring was unfitted for study by his holiday. I was very much tried by Eva’s sullen determined disobedience yesterday, and by Loring’s inattention and passion today, was obliged to make him learn several of his lessons over after dinner. Oh how hard it is to wait patiently, to bear the cruel disappointment I feel on those days when they seem to have gone back and forgotten all I have striven to teach them, but my experience is, sometimes a day when I can see advancement and feel happy and then another to take away all my elation, I must try and remember “Line upon line, precept upon precept,” I must try at every opportunity to sow “Here a little and there a little” good.


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