Read an Excerpt
The next morning we heard that Yicksburg would not in all probability hold out more than a week or two, as the garrison was poorly provi- sioned ; and one of General Pemberton s staff officers told us that the effective force of the gar- rison, upon being estimated, was found to be fifteen thousand men ; General Loring having been cut off after the battle of Black Eiver, with probably ten thousand. The ladies all cried, " Oh, never surrender ! " but after the experience of the night, I really could not tell what I wanted, or what my opinions were. How often I thought of M upon the battle- field, and his anxiety for us in the midst of this un- anticipated danger, wherein the safety lay entirely on the side of the belligerent gentlemen, who were shelling us so furiously, at least two miles from the city, in the bend of the river near the canal. So constantly dropped the shells around the city, that the inhabitants all made preparations to live under the ground during the siege. M sent over and had a cave made in a hill near by. We seized the opportunity one evening, when the gunners were probably at their supper, for we had a few moments of quiet, to go over and take pos- session. We were under the care of a friend of M , who was paymaster on the staff of the same General with whom M was Adjutant. We had neighbors on both sides of us ; and it would have been an amusing sight to a spectator to witness the domestic scenes presented without by the number of servants preparing the meals under the high bank containing the caves. Our dining, breakfasting, and supper hours were quite irregular. When the shells were fall ing fast, the servants came in for safety, and our meals waited for completion some little time ; again they would fall slowly, with the lapse of many minutes between, and out would start the cooks to their work. Some families had light bread made in large quantities, and subsisted on it with milk (provided their cows were not killed from one milking time to another), without any more cooking, until call- ed on to replenish. Though most of us lived on corn bread and bacon, served three times a day, the only luxury of the meal consisting in its warmth, I had some flour, and frequently had some hard, tough biscuit made from it, there be ing no soda or yeast to be procured. At this time we could, also, procure beef. A gentleman friend was kind enough to offer me his camp bed, a nar- row spring mattress, which fitted within the con- tracted cave very comfortably ; another had his tent fly stretched over the mouth of our residence to shield us from the sun ; and thus I was the re- cipient of many favors, and under obligations to many gentlemen of the army for delicate and kind attentions ; and, in looking back to my trials at that time, I shall ever remember with gratitude the kindness with which they strove to ward off every deprivation. And so I went regularly to work, keeping house under ground. Our new habitation was an excavation made in the earth, and branching six feet from the entrance, forming a cave in the shape of a T. In one of the wings my bed fitted ; the other I used as a kind of a dressing room ; in this the earth had been cut down a foot or two below the floor of the main cave ; I could stand erect here ; and when tired of sitting in other portions of my residence, I bowed myself into it, and stood impassively rest- ing at full height one of the variations in the still shell-expectant life. M's servant cooked for us under protection of the hill. Our quarters were close, indeed ; yet I was more comfortable than I expected I could have been made under the earth in that fashion. "We were safe at least from fragments of shell and they were flying in all directions ; though no one seemed to think our cave any protection, should a mortar shell happen to fall directly on top of the ground above us. We had our roof arched and braced, the supports of the bracing taking up much room in our confined quarters. The earth was about five feet thick above, and seemed hard and compact ; yet, poor M , every time he came in, examined it, fearing, amid some of the shocks it sustained, that it might crack and fall upon us.