Today in History:

Sarah Morgan Dawson

 "Early in the war I began to keep a diary, and continued until the very end; I had to find some vent for my feelings, and I would not make an exhibition of myself by talking, as so many women did. I have written while resting to recover breath in the midst of a stampede; I have even written with shells bursting over the house in which I sat, ready to flee but waiting for my mother and sisters to finish their preparations."

Sarah Morgan Dawson's diary stands as a unique perspective and testament to the human experience during the Civil War.  

It is perhaps due to a chance conversation that this Diary of the Civil War was saved from destruction. "We Northerners are sincerely anxious to know what Southern women did and thought at that time, but the difficulty is to find authentic contemporaneous evidence. All that I, for one, have seen, has been marred by improvement in the light of subsequent events."

        You may read my evidence as it was written from March 1862 until April 1865," my mother declared impulsively.

On it was scratched in ink, "To be burned unread after my death"; it contained, she had once said, a record of no interest save to her who had written it and lacked the courage to re-read it; a narrative of days she had lived, of joys she had lost; of griefs accepted, of vain hopes cherished. 

Sarah was born into a prominent Southern family in Louisiana. Growing up in the antebellum South, she enjoyed a privileged upbringing, surrounded by the comforts afforded by her family's wealth and social status. However, her idyllic existence was soon disrupted by the outbreak of the Civil War.

As the conflict engulfed the nation, Dawson found herself grappling with the harsh realities of war. Her family's plantation faced hardships as resources became scarce, and the specter of violence loomed large over their daily lives.

With insight and emotion, Dawson chronicled the challenges, fears, and hopes of life during wartime. Her diary provides a firsthand account of the impact of the conflict on Southern society, offering a glimpse into the experiences of ordinary civilians caught in the midst of war. Through her observations, readers gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of the conflict, including its social, economic, and emotional ramifications.

Following the end of the Civil War, Sarah Morgan Dawson continued to navigate the challenges of post-war Reconstruction. Like many Southerners, she faced the daunting task of rebuilding her life in the aftermath of the conflict

Wednesday, February 3rd.

        Last night we were thrown into the most violent state of commotion by the unexpected entrance of Captain Bradford. He has been brought here a prisoner, from Asphodel, where he has been ever since the surrender of Port Hudson, and taking advantage of his tri-weekly parole, his first visit was naturally here, as he has no other friends.

Friday, June 26th.
Lee has crossed the Potomac on his way to Washington with one hundred and sixty thousand men. Gibbes and George are with him. Magruder is marching on Fort Jackson, to attack it in the rear. One or two of our English ironclads are reported at the mouth of the river, and Farragut has gone down to capture them. O Jimmy! Jimmy! suppose he should be on one of them? We don't know the name of his ship, and it makes us so anxious for him, during these months that we have heard nothing of his whereabouts.
        It is so delightful to see these frightened Yankees! One has only to walk downtown to be satisfied of the alarm that reigns. Yesterday came the tidings of the capture of Brashere City by our troops, and that a brigade was fifteen miles above here, coming down to the city. Men congregated at corners whispering cautiously. These were evidently Confederates who had taken the oath. Solitary Yankees straggled along with the most lugubrious faces, troubling no one. We walked down to Blineau's with Mrs. Price, and over our ice-cream she introduced her husband, who is a true blue Union man, though she, like ourselves, is a rank Rebel. Mr. Price, on the eve of making an immense fortune, was perfectly disconsolate at the news. Every one was to be ruined; starvation would follow if the Confederates entered; there was never a more dismal, unhappy creature. Enchanted at the news, I naturally asked if it were reliable. "Perfectly! Why to prove how true, standing at the door of this salon five minutes ago, I saw two young ladies pass with Confederate flags, which they flirted in the face of some Federal officers, unrebuked!" Verily, thought I, something is about to happen! Two days ago the girls who were "unrebuked" this evening would have found themselves in jail instead.
NEW ORLEANS, August, 1863. Friday, 14th. Yesterday a little, sly, snaky creature asked me if I knew "the Hero of Port Hudson." "Yes," I said briefly. "Unmistakable! I see it in your face!" she remarked. "See what?" "That you betray yourself. Do you know that every one believes that you are engaged to him?" In surprise I said no; such a thing had never been mentioned before me until then. "Well! they say so, and add, too, that you are to be married as soon as the war is over." " 'They' are paying me an undeserved compliment," I returned. Where could such a report have originated? Not certainly from him, and not, most assuredly, from me.

Tuesday, May 2nd, 1865.

        While praying for the return of those who have fought so nobly for us, how I have dreaded their first days at home! Since the boys died, I have constantly thought of what pain it would bring to see their comrades return without them - to see families reunited, and know that ours never could be again, save in heaven. Last Saturday, the 29th of April,

        Reading this for the first time, in all these many years, I wish to bear record that God never failed me, through stranger vicissitudes than I ever dared record. Whatever the anguish, whatever the extremity, in His own good time He ever delivered me. So that I bless Him to-day for all of life's joys and sorrows - for all He gave - for all He has taken - and I bear witness that it was all Very Good.


July 23d, 1896.