Diary from Apr. 22, 1865

Excerpts from the Letters and diary of Laura M. Towne

  • Full Title

    Excerpts from the Letters and diary of Laura M. Towne

  • Description

    Laura M. Towne was an abolitionist and an educator. Before the Civil War, Towne was studying medicine but was motivated to become an abolitionist after the outbreak of the Civil War. Towne volunteered when the Union captured Port Royal and other Sea Islands area of South Carolina. She and her friend, Ellen Murray, founded the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, the first school for freed slaves. Her diaries and letters from this time were edited by Rupert Sargent Holland and published in 1912.

  • Transcription

    The gardens are gay with jonquils and “daffies,” and the jessamine is nearly in full bloom.
    The bell — when will that come? A golden opportunity will be gone if it does not come this week! Our schoolhouse is being shingled now, and if the Government carpenter goes we shall probably have to pay for it, or I shall. It is my affair.

    Charleston, S.C., April 14, 1865.
    I have seen the same old flag raised on Sumter by General Anderson himself,1 Garrison,2 George Thompson, Tilton, Beecher,3 and a host of abolitionists being present. It was a most beautiful and glorious sight…

    Village, St. Helena, S.C., April 23, 1865.
    We did go to Charleston to that great celebration, and on the very day that vile assassin was doing his work, or had accomplished it.4 Such shouts and cheers went up for Lincoln from the freed people of Charleston, at the mention of his name by Garrison at the great meeting in Zion Church, that it must have done him good even in his death. I never saw such enthusiasm as they showed every time he was mentioned. On the island here they are inconsolable and will not believe he is dead. In the church this morning they prayed for him as wounded but still alive, and said that he was their Saviour — that Christ saved them from sin, and

    1. The United States flag was raised on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 14, 1865, by General Robert Anderson, who had been compelled to surrender the same fort four years before.
    2. Willian Lloyd Garrison.
    3. Henry Ward Beecher.
    4. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated April 14, 1865.
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    he from “Secesh,” and as for the vile Judas who had lifted his hand against him, they prayed the Lord the whirlwind would carry him away, and that he would melt as wax in the fervent heat, and be driven forever from before the Lord. Was n’t it the cunning of the Devil that did the deed; and they are going to prove him insane! When he was wise enough to strike the one in whom all could trust, and whose death would inevitably throw confusion and doubt into the popular mind of the North! And then to single out Seward2 in hopes that the next Secretary might embroil us with Europe and so give them another chance! It is so hard to wait a week or two before we know what comes next.
    But I must tell you of our trip to Charleston. General Saxton gave us all passes, and a large party of teachers went from this island with Mr. Ruggles — good, kind, handsome fellow — to escort us. We stayed at a house kept by the former servants or slaves of Governor Aiken.
    I was dreadfully seasick going up, and the day after I got there had to go to bed, and so I missed seeing many things I should have liked to visit. It stood — the house we stayed at —in the very heart of the shelled part of the city, and had ever so many balls through it. The burnt part of the town is the picture of desolation, and the detested “old sugar-house,” as the workhouse was called, looks like a giant in his lair. It was where all the slaves were whipped, and the whipping-room was made with double walls filled in with sand so that the cries could not be heard in the street. The treadmill and all

    2 An attempt was also made to assassinate Secretary State Seward.
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    kinds of tortures were inflicted there. I wanted to make sure of the building and asked an old black woman in that was the old sugar-house. “Dat’s it,” she said, “but it’s all played out now.” On Friday we went to Sumter, got good seats in the amphitheatre inside, near the pavilion for the speakers, and had a good opportunity to see all. I think there was not that enthusiasm in Anderson that I expected, and Henry Ward Beecher addressed himself to the “citizens of Charleston,” when there were not a dozen there. He spoke very much by note, and quite without fire.
    At Sumter I bought several photographs, and send you one of the face [of the fortress] farthest from Wagner, Gregg, and our assailing forts, and consequently pretty well preserved. If you look closely you will see rows of basket-work, filled with sand, repairing a break. The whole inside of the fort is lined with them.
    The next day was the grand day, however, when Wilson, Garrison, Thompson, Kelly, Tilton, and others spoke. Redpath mentioned John Brown’s name, and asked the great congregation to sing his favorite hymn, “Blow ye the Trumpet,” or “Year of Jubilee.”
    I spoke to Judge Kelly afterwards and had a nice promise from him that he would send me all his speeches. We came home on Sunday and found all the missing boxes arrived,— or nearly all,— among them, mine. You do not know how intensely we all enjoy your picture—that exquisite sea-view. How could you spare me such a picture! I lie down on our sofa which faces it, and do so heartily enter into the freshness of it that it is refreshing in this hot weather. Many thanks to you.
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    [The next letter refers to the death of President Lincoln.]

    Saturday, April 29, 1865.
    … It was a frightful blow at first. The people have refused to believe he was dead. Last Sunday the black minister of Frogmore said that if they knew the President were dead they would mourn for him, but they could not think that was the truth, and they would wait and see. We are going to-morrow to hear what further they say. One man came for clothing and seemed very indifferent about them — different from most of the people. I expressed some surprise. “Oh,” he said, “I have lost a friend. I don’t care much now about anything.” “What friend?” I asked, not really thinking for a moment. “They call him Sam,” he said; “Uncle Sam, the best friend ever I had.” Another asked me in a whisper if it were true that the “Government was dead.” Rina says she can’t sleep for thinking how sorry she is to lose “Pa Linkum.” You know they call their elders in the church—of the particular one who converted and received them in — their spiritual father, and he has the most absolute power over them. These fathers are addressed with feat and awe as “Pa Marcus,” “Pa Demas,” etc. One man said to me, “Lincoln died for we, Christ died for we, and me believe him de same mans,” that is, they are the same person.
    We dressed our school-house in what black we could get, and gave a shred of crape to same of our children, who wear it sacredly. Fanny’s bonnet supplied the whole school.




    [Transcription by: Grace C., Dr. Susan Corbesero’s Class, Ellis School, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania]

  • Source

    The University of Wisconsin - Madison via Google Books

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    This item is in the public domain and may be reproduced and used for any purpose, including research, teaching, private study, publication, broadcast or commercial use, with proper citation and attribution.

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    Laura M. Towne. "Excerpts from the Letters and diary of Laura M. Towne". Cambridge, Printed at the Riverside Press,. Remembering Lincoln. Web. Accessed November 11, 2019. https://rememberinglincoln.fords.org/node/1194