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TWELVE WOMEN IN THE FIRST DAYS OF THE CONFEDERACY Isabel Quattfebaum Gbeat bejoicings swept through the South when the Southern states seceded from the Union. The rationale of the rejoicing may have been strained, but many people were extravagant in their praise of secession and of the Confederacy. Quickly did they turn against the Union flag, now termed"thatoldstripedrag," and as quickly did they give credence to fantastic accounts of the horrors of "Yankeedoodledum," as one diarist termed Northern territory. The optimism which prevailed in the South at the outbreak of the war is weU illustrated in the diaries of twelve Southern women. For example , Mrs. CorneUa McDonald wrote that, in I860, "the opinion was almost unanimous that separation was inevitable, but that it would be peaceful; that the importance of the supply of cotton was such that the North dared not go to extremities. And if it did, that'Europe and the rest of the world would interfere."1 To the young Southern women the outbreak of war was a time of gaiety. Sarah Morgan Was interested in the Louisiana regiment stationed in her native Baton Rouge and in the young officers who came to her parties. Even when Louisiana seceded from the Union on January 24, 1861, Sarah wrote: "We did not trouble ourselves with gloomy anticipation, for many strangers visited the town, and our parties, rides, and walks grew gayer and more frequent."2 Secession was the first serious problem which concerned the women. At first Sarah Morgan in Louisiana and EUza Frances Andrews and her father in Georgia did not want secession. Miss Andrews agreed with her father that it was "a pity to break up a great nation about a parcel of Born in Columbia, South Carolina, Miss Quattlebaum holds degrees from Wake Forest College and Emory University. She is at present a history instructor at Herschel V. Jenkins High School, Savannah, Georgia. 1 CorneUa Peake McDonald, A Diary with Reminiscences of the War and Refugee Life in the Shenandoah VaUey, 1860-1865, ed. Hunter McDonald (Nashville, 1934), p. 13. Hereafter cited as McDonald, Diary. 2 Sarah Morgan Dawson, A Confederate GirTs Diary, ed, James I. Robertson, Jr. (Bloomington, Ind., 1960), p. 5. Hereafter cited as Dawson, Diary. 370 Africai savages, if we had known any other way to protect our rights/* Mrs. Miry Boykin Chesnut dreaded "this break with so great a power as the United States."4 Kate Cumming was the only diarist who asserted that theSouth probably had no lawful right to secede, for she knew that the natbn was stronger when united, but she agreed to secession, since there \ws "no happiness in union without concord."5 Sarah Morgan prophesed that after the South had righted its wrongs it would re-enter the Unrai on more favorable terms. She did not think that the Confederacy couU standbyitself. "It is arope of sand, this Confederacy, founded onthedcctrineof Secession, andwill notlast many years—notfive."6 The women justified secession but wanted to leave the Union without war, îruelty, or bloodshed. They were puzzled that the North would not let tlem go in peace. To insure lasting peace and good wiU, the South and North must be separate nations. This is what Judith McGuire thought as she wrote on May 4, 1861: "Why cannot we part in peace?"7 Mrs. Chesnut said that the South separated from the North because of incompatibility of temper. "We are divorced, North from South, because we have hated each other so. If we could only separate poUtely, andnothaveja horridfight fordivorce." After Manassas hadbeen fought and war begsai in earnest, she added: "We would only be too grateful to be left alone. Only let us alone. We ask no more, of Gods or men."8 None of the women in the spring of 1861 realized the extent of the approaching war. Mrs. Chesnut and Mrs. McGuire thought war could be averted, since Fort Sumter had been won without a casualty. Mrs. Catherine Edmondston thought her husband, while coUecting troops anddrillingthem in North Carolina, was merelybeingprepared. "As the price of Liberty is eternal vigilance, perhaps he is only laying down his purchase moneyJ She visited Mount Pleasant early in 1861...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 370-385
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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