From the Diary of a Young Northern Woman, 1861-1862

From Caroline Cowles Richards Clarke. Village Life in America, 1852-1872, including the period of the American Civil War, as told in the Diary of a School-girl. New York: H. Holt and Co., 1912. 130-41, 145, 147-48, 150-156.


March 4, 1861÷President Lincoln was inaugurated to-day.

March 5.÷I read the inaugural address aloud to Grandfather this evening. He dwelt with such pathos upon the duty that all, both North and South, owe to the Union, it does not seem as though there could be war!

April.÷We seem to have come to a sad, sad time. The Bible says, "A man's worst foes are those of his own household." The whole United States has been like one great household for many years. "United we stand, divided we fall!" has been our watchword, but some who should have been its best friends have proven false and broken the bond. Men are taking sides, some for the North, some for the South. Hot words and fierce looks have followed, and there has been a storm in the air for a long time.

April 15.÷The storm has broken upon us. The Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, just off the coast of South Carolina, and forced her on April 14 to haul down the flag and surrender. President Lincoln has issued a call for 75,000 men and many are volunteering to go all around us. How strange and awful it seems.

May, 1861.÷Many of the young men are going from Canandaigua and all the neighboring towns. It seems very patriotic and grand when they are singing, "It is sweet, Oh, 'tis sweet, for one's country to die," and we hear the martial music and see the flags flying and see the recruiting tents on the square and meet men in uniform at every turn and see train loads of the boys in blue going to the front, but it will not seem so grand if we hear they are dead on the battlefield, far from home. A lot of us girls went down to the train and took flowers to the soldiers as they were passing through and they cut buttons from their coats and gave to us as souvenirs. We have flags on our paper and envelopes, and have all our stationery bordered with red, white and blue ribbon and have pins and earrings made of the buttons the soldiers gave us. We are going to sew for them in our society and get the garments all cut from the older ladies society. They work every day in one of the rooms of the court house and cut out garments and make them and scrape lint and roll up bandages. They say they will provide us with all the garments we will make. We are going to write notes and enclose them in the garments to cheer up the soldier boys. It does not seem now as though I could give up any one who belonged to me The girls in our society say that if any of the members do send a soldier to the war they shall have a flag bed quilt, made by the society, and have the girls' names on the stars.

June, 1861.÷There was a patriotic rally this afternoon on the campus of Canandaigua Academy and we Seminary girls went. They raised a flag on the Academy building. General Granger presided, Dr. Coleman led the choir and they sang "The Star Spangled Banner." Mr Noah T. Clarke made a stirring speech and Mr Gideon Granger, James C. Smith and E.M. Morse followed. Canandaigua has already raised over $7,000 for the war. Capt. Barry drills the Academy boys in military tactics on the campus every day. Men are constantly enlisting. Lester P. Thompson, son of "Father Thompson," among the others.

      A young man asked Anna to take a drive to-day, but Grandmother was not willing at first to let her go. She finally gave her consent, after Anna's plea that he was so young and his horse was so gentle. Just as they were ready to start, I heard Anna run upstairs and I heard him say, "What an Anna!" I asked her afterwards what she went for and she said she remembered that she had left the soap in the water.



Washington's Birthday.÷Patriotic services were held in the Congregational Church this morning. Madame Anna Bishop sang, and National songs were sung. Hon. James C. Smith read Washington's Farewell Address. In the afternoon a party of twenty-two, young and old, took a ride in the Seminary boat and went to Mr. Paton's on the lake shore road. We carried flags and made it a patriotic occasion. I sat next to Spencer F. Lincoln, a young man from Naples who is studying law in Mr. Henry Chesebro's office. I never met him before but he told me he had made up his mind to go to the war. It is wonderful that young men who have brilliant prospects before them at home, will offer themselves upon the altar of their country. I have some new patriotic stationery. There is a picture of the flag on the envelope and underneath, "If any one attempts to haul down the American Flag shoot him on the spot.÷John A. Dix."

June.÷Anna and I had a serenade last night from the Academy Glee Club, I think, as their voices sounded familiar. We were awakened by the music, about 11 P.M., quite suddenly and I thought I would step across the hall to the front chamber for a match to light the candle. I was only half awake, however, and lost my bearings and stepped off the stairs and rolled or slid to the bottom. The stairs are winding, so I must have performed two or three revolutions before I reached my destination. I jumped up and ran back and found Anna sitting up in bed, laughing. She asked me where I had been and said if I had only told her where I was going she would have gone for me. We decided not to strike a light, but just listen to the singing. Anna said she was glad that the leading tenor did not know how quickly I "tumbled" to the words of his song, "O come my love and be my own, nor longer let me dwell alone," for she thought he would be too much flattered. Grandfather came into the hall and asked if any bones were broken and if he should send for a doctor. We told him we guessed not, we thought we would be all right in the morning. He thought it was Anna who fell down stairs, as he is never looking for such exploits in me. We girls received some verses from the Academy boys, written by Greig Mulligan, under the assumed name of Simon Snooks. The subject was "The Poor Unfortunate Academy Boys." We have answered them and now I fear Mrs. Grundy will see them and imagine something serious is going on. But she is mistaken and will find, at the end of the session, our hearts are still in our own possession.

July, 1862.÷The President has called for 300,000 more brave men to fill up the ranks of the fallen. We hear every day of more friends and acquaintances who have volunteered to go.

August 20.÷The 126th Regiment, just organized, was mustered into service at Camp Swift, Geneva. Those that I know who belong to it are Colonel E.S. Sherrill, Lieutenant Colonel James M. Bull, Captain Charles A. Richardson, Captain Charles M. Wheeler, Captain Ten Eyck Munson, Captain Orin G. Herendeen, Surgeon Dr. Charles S. Hoyt, Hospital Steward Henry T. Antes, First Lieutenant Charles Gage, Second Lieutenant Spencer F. Lincoln, First Sergeant Morris Brown, Corporal Hollister N. Grimes, Privates Darius Sackett, Henry Wilson, Oliver Castler, William Lamport.

      Dr. Hoyt wrote home, "God bless the dear ones we leave behind; and while you try to perform the duties you owe to each other, we will try to perform ours."

      We saw by the papers that the volunteers of the regiment before leaving camp at Geneva allotted over $15,000 of their monthly pay to their families and friends at home. One soldier sent this telegram to his wife, as the regiment started for the front: "God bless you. Hail Columbia. Kiss the baby. Write soon." A volume in ten words.

September 22.÷I read aloud to Grandfather this evening the Emancipation Proclamation issued as a war measure by President Lincoln, to take effect January 1, liberating over three million slaves. He recommends to all thus set free, to labor faithfully for reasonable wages and to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defense, and he invokes upon this act "the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God."

November 21.÷This is my twentieth birthday. Anna wanted to write a poem for the occasion and this morning she handed me what she called "An effort." She said she wrestled with it all night long and could not sleep and this was the result:

      "One hundred years from now, Carrie, dear,
      In all probability you'll not be here;
      But we'll all be in the same boat, too,
      And there'll be no one left
            To say boo hoo!"

Grandfather gave me for a present a set of books called "Irving's Catechisms on Ancient Greeks and Romans." They are four little books bound in leather, which were presented to our mother for a prize. It is thus inscribed on the front page, "Miss Elizabeth Beals at a public examination of the Female Boarding School in East Bloomfield, October 15, 1825, was judged to excel the school in Reading. In testimony of which she received this Premium from her affectionate instructress, S. Adams."

      I cannot imagine Grandmother sending us away to boarding school, but I suppose she had so many children then, she could spare one or two as well as not. She says they sent Aunt Ann to Miss Willard's school at Troy. I received a birthday letter from Mrs. Beaumont to-day. She wants to know how everything goes at the Seminary and if Anna still occupies the front seat in the school room most of the time. She says she supposes she is quite a sedate young lady now but she hopes there is a whole lot of the old Anna left. I think there is.

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