Thursday, May 15, 2008

Diary of Betty Herndon Maury - April 18, 1862

Good Friday, April 18th [1862]

Last night we heard that the enemy were four miles from Falmouth. did not know their strength. Our forces went across the river to meet them. I believe they had a short skirmish in the night.

While we were dressing we saw great columns rising from the river and soon learned that the army were in strong force, that our troops had retreated to this side of the river and fired the bridges.

I went down to the river and shall never forget the scene there. Above were our three bridges, all in a light blaze from one end to the other and every few minutes the beams and timbers would splash into the water with a great noise. Below were two large steam boats, the Virginia and the St. Nicholas, all wrapt in flames. There were two or three rafts dodging in between the burning vessels containing families coming over to this side with their negroes and horses.

Our troops went off quietly telling us good bye as they passed along.

The streets have been filled with waggons and drays and men and women in carriages and buggys leaving the town. But all have gone now and the streets are deserted.

The stars and stripes are floating in Falmouth. Some say the enemy is eight and some ten thousand strong. Our town council has met and sent over a flag of truce asking them to come quietly and not to shell the town, that we have no forces here. They can take possession when ever they choose. We expect them every hour. They can wade across the river just above Falmouth, or cross in rafts below.

The Commissary stores left here are to be given to the people at one o’clock.

Mr. Corbin was thrown from his horse two days ago and dislocated his arm. He is at Moss Neck and cannot be moved. Nanny went down to him yesterday. I am afraid he will be caught.

Received a letter from Dick a few days ago. He is in the trenches not two hundred yards from the enemy.

We heard that the fighting had commenced at Yorktown. I doubt it. The enemy does not intend to attack us. If there is a battle we must bring it on.

No cars came up this morning of course. It will be dreadful to be cut off from all tidings of those that are nearest and dearest to us.

Note: April 18, 1862 is the day John Washington walked away from Fredericksburg to freedom. Read his account of this and subsequent days in A Slave No More.

Jane Howison Beale also describes the events of April 1862 in Fredericksburg in her Journal. This book is currently sold out but may be available again at some point through the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation.

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