Raleigh: Confederate Accounts
While Sherman and his men lessened destruction, Confederate citizens that faced these men did not change their opinions. Women in the capital city prepared diligently for the coming of Sherman’s men. Prominent Raleigh resident Mary Bayard Clarke described the activities of local women that stayed up all night sewing valuables into their clothing. She believed that Sherman’s men would search their homes looking for personal valuables. (Item 413) Other local prominent resident Charlotte Grimes, the wife of Confederate General Bryan Grimes, “had $200.00 in gold quilted in a belt under” her corsets and “a stout bag filled with forks and spoons around” her waist, to prepare for the looting for which Sherman’s men were notorious. (Item 414) Women like Catherine Edmondston who also lived in the elite circle of North Carolinians hid her journal, as it was “too bulky to be kept out, exposed to prying Yankee eyes and thievish Yankee fingers.” Although not in Raleigh at the time, Edmondston grew fearful of the direction Sherman and his army might take after Goldsboro, possibly towards her summer home, Hascosea, in Halifax County. Each of these women saw raids that Sherman and his men committed in much different light from the Union accounts. Despite the fact that orders had been given to cut down on such acts women feared these men would get hold of their personal items, particularly Edmondston. Union soldiers had commonly read and harassed Southern women with their diaries and love letters from their men. Edmondston could not stomach the thought of this action, which led to her hide her diary. (Item 415)
The Confederate expectation of raids and the common occurrence of light Union raids in the final days of the war did little to break North Carolina women’s faith in the Confederacy. Mary Bayard Clarke believed that women in Raleigh owed it to their southern sisters in Columbia and Fayetteville, who had experienced much worse destruction, to show resistance to Sherman and his men. Students at the local women’s school, St. Mary’s, demonstrated different acts of passive resistance. The women refused to partake in coffee sent by Union General Oliver Howard, even though coffee was a favorite of the students and a luxury item to those in the South. The young women also resisted Union control in other ways. A group of students refused to look at the Union flag while Union soldiersraised it, which drew the anger of General Howard. (Item 413) Some women like Charlotte Grimes did much more than resist with slight gestures. She actually armed herself in preparation for Union soldiers. As Grimes wrote, she “also had a dagger” with her for when Sherman and his men came. Grimes’ Confederate husband gave the dagger to her,though Grimes doubted that she could ever get the nerve to use it. (Item 414) Clarke, Edmondston, Grimes, and other North Carolina women resisted the presence of Sherman and his men, although peace approached.
Elizabeth Collier, a twenty-one-year-old from the city of Goldsboro, wrote a particularly compelling journal entry on April 25, right before officials negotiated peace., Interestingly, Collier resided in Hillsborough at the time because Sherman’s advance into North Carolina forced her out of Goldsboro. As Sherman had made Collier a refugee in her own state, she resented toward Sherman and his men and maintained her Confederate pride. In her diary, Collier clearly admitted to the surrender of Johnston, and even trembled at the thought of Reconstruction. The possibility of living under Union control, the enemy for the past four years, shook Collier even more so. Collier testified, “Can we ever live in peace with the desecrators of our homes and the murderers of our fathers, brothers and sons—Never—We are bound to rise again.” (Item 178) Because of such actions, Collier never wanted to come under Union control. She believed that the South would rise again, even though peace was all but guaranteed by the time of her entry. Mary Bayard Clarke showed a similar desire for the Confederacy to persevere in her article, as she believed Confederates would gladly “have given up all houses, furniture, clothing and jewelry for the privilege of struggling on.” (Item 413) Physically Sherman destroyed the South, including North Carolina, but many still possessed a desire to fight.