Over time, we will continue to add to this section of the site, bringing you select wartime stories from the home front. The following snippets, taken from various sources (cited), offer a glimpse into the daily struggles confronting those separated from their loved ones, and suffering from the ravages of war.
Marietta, GA, March 3, 1861 diary entry of Louisa Fletcher, a former resident of the North who remained loyal to the Union: “…political strife between the North & South that has been the dominant topic of newspaper strife & conversation – this being the last day of (President James) Buchanan’s rule & tomorrow the first of Lincoln’s we shall probably have some change either for better or worse – for one thing I earnestly pray – for peace & not war – seven states have seceded & formed themselves into a Southern Confederacy.”
January 18, 1863 diary entry of Louisa Fletcher: “Many things I care not to record for my country’s sake – the war is still raging, fierce & bloody - & I see no prospect of peace – we are boarding a family of Refugees from Nashville, which place is in the hands of the federals.”
Undated diary entry of Louisa Fletcher: “My country, my country – I could weep over its fallen greatness! What a state to live in – barely existing from day to day! When will our sorrows have an end!”Selections from: Deborah Malone, “The State of Her Union,” in Traced with Fire, Written in Blood: A Journal of Georgia Civil War History, ed. R. Olin Jackson and Daniel M. Roper (Armuchee, GA: Legacy Communications, 2009), 85-88.
Armuchee Creek, GA, 1864 recollection from Naomi Shropshire Bale: “Desolation was writ on all the Valley. For three weeks a hundred in our family literally ‘lived from hand to mouth,’ picking up scraps of potatoes left in the fields, small scattered turnips, and meat from the cattle which the negroes secured and brought in where cows and hogs had been shot. Oh! these were strenuous, perilous times.” Selection from: Daniel M. Roper, “Traced With Fire, Written in Blood,” in Traced with Fire, Written in Blood: A Journal of Georgia Civil War History, ed. R. Olin Jackson and Daniel M. Roper (Armuchee, GA: Legacy Communications, 2009).
Soldiers Wives in Miller County, GA, in a September 8, 1863 letter: “Our crops is limited and so short…We can seldom find (bacon) for none has got but those that are exempt from service…and they have no humane feeling nor patriotic principles…I tell you that without some great and speedy alterating in the conducting of affairs in this our little nation God will frown on it and that speedily.” Selection from: John C. Inscoe, ed., The Civil War in Georgia: A New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011), 162.
Eliza Frances Andrews recalled the devastation left in the wake of Sherman’s march to the sea; her December 1864 diary entry reflected upon the destruction witnessed near Sparta, Georgia. “The fields were trampled down and the road was lined with carcasses of horses, hogs, and cattle that the invaders, unable either to consume or to carry away with them, had wantonly shot down to starve out the people and prevent them from making their crops."
In January 1865, Andrews wrote of the hardships visiting many Georgians, wartime shortages of food and clothing proved difficult. The increasing casualty took its own toll. “Mrs. Sims almost made me cry with her account of poor Mary Millen – her brother dead, their property destroyed; it is the same sad story over again…this dreadful war is bringing ruin upon so many happy homes.”
March 22, 1865, Andrews lamented, “These are unceremonious times, when social distinctions are forgotten and the raggedest rebel that tramps the road in his country’s service is entitled to more honor than a king.”
April 17, 1865, unaware of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Andrews witnessed several trains fleeing Columbus, Georgia after the city fell to the Federal troops. “It was pitiful to see them, especially the poor little children, driven from their homes by the frozen-hearted Northern Vandals, but they were all brave and cheerful, laughing good naturedly instead of grumbling over their hardships. People have gotten so used to these sort of things that they have learned to bear them with philosophy.”
The war tested the religious convictions of many Southerners, as displayed in Andrews comments regarding the Federal troops in Georgia. “I used to have some Christian feeling towards Yankees, but now that they have invaded our country and killed so many of our men and desecrated so many homes, I can’t believe that when Christ said ‘Love your enemies,’ he meant Yankees.” Selections from: Eliza Frances Andrews, The War-time Journal of a Georgia Girl, 1864-1865, ed. Spencer Bidwell King Jr. (Atlanta: Cherokee Pub., 1976), 32, 71, 120, 146, 149.
John Beauchamp Jones, a clerk in the Confederate War Department, captured the scenes in Richmond, when composing his December 1, 1863 diary entry. “A portion of the people look like vagabonds. We see men and women and children in the streets in dingy and dilapidated clothes; and some seem gaunt and pale with hunger….” Selection from: John B. Jones, “A Rebel War Clerk's Diary,” in The Oxford Dictionary of Civil War Quotations, ed. John D. Wright (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 176.
Georgian, and Union loyalist William King observed the ravaged countryside near Marietta, Georgia during the summer of 1864, and noted the dire conditions in his diary. “Many of these poor robbed people, having nothing at Home to live on, and sustaining themselves by gathering Blackberries & exchanging them for food, when the blackberries are gone, which are now nearly over, they must suffer; the whole country in the wake of the 2 Armies has been robbed of every thing, growing crops, gardens, Provisions, Poultry, Hogs, Cows, Horses, nearly every thing, in many cases their clothing & furniture either taken or destroyed by the soldiers of both armies, & often by the people of the County. All the wicked passions of the people seem to be left without restrain - - such are some of the fruits of war.” Selection from: William King, “August 3, 1864 Entry,” in Diary of William King: Cobb County, Georgia, 1864 (Transcript of manuscript #2985-Z, Documenting the American South. University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.), http://docsouth.unc.edu/imls/kingwilliam/king.html (accessed September 20, 2011).
A Wisconsin soldier, John F. Brobst, wrote of shortages prevailing throughout the Southland. “The people up north do not know what war is. If they were to come down here once, they would soon find out the horror of war. Wherever the army goes, they leave nothing behind them, take all the horses, all the cattle, hogs, sheep, chickens, corn and in fact, everything, the longer the rebs hold out the worse it is for them.” Selection from Juanita Leisch, “Well Mary, Civil War Letters of a Wisconsin Volunteer,” in Civil War Civilians (Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1994), 58.
Early in the war, a Fairfax County, Virginia diarist noted of Federal soldiers in the area, “…they searched and plundered the house from garret to cellar, then they went out and hitched up the carriages, wagons, carts, everything they could find, killed the horses, mules and cows.” One elderly witness to the tirade, alarmed at the “…violence, noise, and oaths,” suffered paralysis and “…never from that hour to the day of her death did she utter one coherent sentence.” Selection from Juanita Leisch, “Anne Frobel Diary,” in Civil War Civilians (Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1994), 63.
The war ravaged landscape of the South impacted many aspects of everyday life. Schoolchildren did not escape the lasting influence of a rapidly changing world, as evidenced in 'Willie's Political Alphabet,' a period selction from a Georgia textbook. As found in: For the Little Ones, by A Lady of Savannah (Savannah: John M. Cooper & Co., [n.d.]), 32-33.
Come, Willie, come study your State Alphabet:
First A’s for the Army—now don’t you forget—
And B’s for the Banner, the “flag of the free,”
For Beauregard, Bartow, Bethel and Bee!
And C’s for the “Southern Confederacy” brave,
Our bold little ship, all afloat on the wave!
And D’s for Davis, oh, wide as the sea
Shall the fame of our glorious President be!
Next, E’s for the Eighth, they were first in the fight,
And F is for Freedom, the freedom of right,
And G stands for Georgia,—the flower, the queen,
And H is for Hampton, his legion I mean!
Now I is the Infantry, sturdy and strong,
And the J’s to the Johnsons and Jacksons belong,
And K’s for “King Cotton” he sits on his throne,
The monarch of nations, alone, all alone!
And L stands for Lincoln, oh, woe to his crown!
“King Cotton,” “King Cotton” is trampling him down!
And M’s for Manassas, our glory, our pride,
And N for the Navy, the waters to guide,
And O’s for the Oglethorpes, glorious name!
O write it in gold on the pages of fame!
And stamp Carolina the rebel the worst,
With a P for Palmetto, secession the first!
And Q is so twisted, so twisted and twirled,
That Q’s for the traitors, all over the world,
And R for the Rebels, the rebels shall stand—
And S for Savannah, our own native land.
And the Creoles the Tigers are graven with T,
And U’s for the Union, a wreck on the sea!
And V’s for our Victory, bright as the sun,
And W for Washington, soon to be won!
And X still a place in your letters must keep,
O X is a cross for the heroes you weep!
And Y for the Yankees, the Yankees is set,
Then Z for the Zouaves—now don’t you forget—
For Z is the end of your State Alphabet.