Diary of Betty Herndon Maury
At Cousin John Minor’s
June 3d 1861
A diary, faithfully kept in such eventful times as these, must be interesting to our children even though it be indifferently written.
I commenced one about three weeks ago at our home in Washington, but in the hurry and confusion of getting off it was forgotten.
I shall commence where I left off there hoping to get that one of these days. Though God knows when or where we shall ever see our possessions there again. Will left his business, furniture and every thing to come here and be with his people on the right side.
Last Thursday and Friday we got letters from Papa, by private hand (there are no mails now between the North and the South) commanding us to come out of Washington at once. On Friday Will went down to Alexandria to see if he could get wagons or conveyance of any kind, to carry us to Manassas junction.
While he was gone it occured to me that I had better go to the War Department and try to get a pass for us to leave the next day. So I got a hack and drove to the Department, intending to get Major John Lee to go with me to see General Mansfield and ask for the pass. Major Lee was out after waiting half an hour for him I went over to General Mansfield’s office. He refused to give us a pass – refused even to give one to Nannie Belle and myself without Will. Said no one was allowed to cross the lines now. My heart died within me, and my eyes filled with tears. I began to despair. Just then Major Lee came in. He heard I had been waiting for him and had followed me over. He took me back to the department and said that he would go and ask the Secretary of War (Mr. Cameron). So we went up to Mr. Cameron’s office, but he was at home – sick. Then we applied to General Scott. He gave one for Nannie Belle and myself, but refused to allow Will to go. But when Major Lee learned that we were going in a hack across the country and through the “rebel camp” alone, he said it would never do for us to go with Mr. Maury.
Upon second application General Scott gave a pass to Will – first inquiring whether he was any relation to Capt Maury of the Observatory now in Richmond. The Clerk who carried a note making the second application, did not know and said he was not. The old General little knew that I was his daughter.
Will was delighted when he saw the pass. Said that he could never have gotten it. I felt like all the strong minded women I knew.
Mr. Hasbrouck of Newburg, N.Y. came to see us that night. He came down hoping to get to Richmond to see Papa but was told that there was danger of his being arrested. So he gave it up. He could have come with perfect safety. Papa could get him back. He speaks with the greatest regret and grief of Pa’s resignation talked as if he was dead. I told him that I was proud of my father before, but I was a hundred times prouder of him now. That if he had considered his own personal welfare he would have remained with the North. Their people have always honoured and appreciated him far more than those at the South. . . but he could not take sides against his own people – against his native State and against the right.
Mr. H wanted Will and myself to come up to Newburgh and stay until the troubles are over.
Saturday morning we left Washington. We gave up our house and stowed our furniture at cousin Charles’ – left a great many things undone, but I reckon Mother will attend to them. There was a good deal of furniture in the house still to be moved.
We missed the boat and came all the way to Alexandria in a hack. Will paid $25 for a carriage to take us to Manassas junction. it could only take two small trunks, so I had to leave mine with the greater part of my clothes.
We were stopped by a sentinel every fifteen minutes of our ride for eight miles out of Alexandria. Nannie Belle was so delighted at the prospect of seeing her Grandma and aunt Lucy that she would sing “Dixie” all the way. I was afraid it would make the soldiers suspect us. So in order to stop her I had to give her a sugar cracker whenever we came to a sentinel. She soon understood it and would call out “Mama here is another soldier, give me a sugar tacker.
We were told that we would find a company of Federal cavalry close to the rebel lines! So when it was nearly dark, and we were near Fairfax courthouse we were stopped by two dragoons. I was struck by their gentlemanly appearance, they looked very different from the pickets we had passed. Will handed them General Huntzleman’s pass that he had got in Alexandria. They said that was signed by none of their officers and would not do. W then gave them Gen’ Scott’s pass. They laughed and said they belonged to the Southern troops. I exclaimed Thank God we are among our own people at last. They told us we might go on to Fairfax but must get a pass there. We stayed all night there. The night before (Friday) a company of eighty horse had ridden into the village and attacked our troops, fifty in number. They were repulsed with the loss of three killed and three prisoners. Our Captain (Marr) was killed and three prisoners taken. There were expected again that night. We laid down in our clothes, but were undisturbed .
Rose at four o clock and started at five for Manassas. We stopped at the Court house & jail to get our pass. There among a crowd of soldiers and horses I discovered our brother Tom. He had arrived in the night with his company from Manassas.
Were only stopped three or four times between Fairfax and the junction.
About three miles below Manassas a South Carolina regiment is stationed. They are fortifying themselves and throwing up breast works.
We reached Manassas too late for the eight o clock train and had to stay there till Monday morning. There are no accommodations for us. The tavern was filled with soldiers. I spent the day in the carriage under the trees with men, horses and tents all around us.
We had service during the day. The first time Nannie Belle had ever been to church. It was in imposing and affecting sight to see so many soldiers worshiping God under the broad canopy of Heaven.
I was the only woman present. Saw a great many acquaintances and friends there. We got a room at night, but did not take off our clothes, the place was too public.
Our troops are fewer and mor indifferently armed than I expected to see. But with such indomitable spirits and such mothers and wives they can never be beaten. I saw some plain country people there telling their sons and husbands good bye. I did not hear the first word of repining or grief. Only encouragement to do their best and be of good service. One woman after taking leave of her husband said to two youths when telling them good bye “Don’t mind my tears boys. They do no mean any thing.” After they left their mother shamed her and said “how could you let them see you crying? it will unman them.” These were plain people who talked about “Farfax” and said ‘farwell.’
Will went to Richmond. I arrived here Monday evening in time for tea. Mama did not expect us, so there was no one at the cars to meet me.
There have been two engagements at Aquia Creek Friday and Saturday. The vessels were repulsed and the last time the Pawnee must have been very much injured. Only a chicken and a horse were killed on our side.