27, "Not another pill will I swallow except opium. I rather like its effect." Excerpts from the diary of Mary L. Pearre.
Three weeks has passed since I have penned a line. Ruth, May & myself have all been ill, are now convalescent. I have been confined to my room for two weeks & have been well physicked with quinine, opium & with various powders & pills. Have no faith in M.D.'s & their stuff. Yet by dent of much persuasive eloquence aided by acute pain the doctor prevailed upon me to be drugged to any amount. I am far from being well yet. Have forsworn [sic] any more dosing. Not another pill will I swallow except opium. I rather like its effect.
While I have been ill, time has kept the uneven tenor of its way. Various events have occurred
Brentwood, six miles from here, was surprised and taken last Wednesday by Genl. Forrest & Starnes. The attack was made just at day. Took 680 prisoners that morning, a wagon train with medicine and supplies of every kind.
About 12 o'clock the Federal calvay [sic] (from Franklin) came into collision on the Hillsboro pike two miles from here. We were victor again and captured several hundred more bluecoats. Mag says this even has caused me to get well rapidly. Perhaps so. I have been elated since.
Bob Cotton brought me a package of letters he took out of a Yankee tent. They were from a Mrs. Abbie Sears to her husband. It made my heart ache to read her tender loving wifely letters, so full of devotion & passionate longing for his return. Poor thing. Her husband is a prisoner and she as yet is unconscious of his fate. This is only an incident of war, a mere speck among its accumulated horrors. My hand trembles so I can scarcely write. I would desist could I find a better employment. Am so tired of being sick and seeing those that are sick that I have shut myself up alone though there is no fife and the room is rather damp.
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How many of us have adopted the motto in all things – if you cant [sic] be – at least seem to be & go on eating "husks" as it were & holding as life's chief good the complete and final subjugation of genuine emotion & substitute in it place an artificial mode of thinking, speaking and eating.
Here I will make an extract. Truly there are two senses in which every search, every combat, may said to be closed. one where the victor grasps his prize or waves aloft his sword in the moment of triumph. The other when bleeding, mained [sic] or dying, the vanquished sinks to earth without the power to arise.
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Am studying "Phrenology." Just began yesterday….Am rather skeptical in regard to the science.
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Diary of Mary L. Pearre
27, A West Tennessee-Confederate-soldier's letter home to his mother in occupied Memphis
I received your letter of March 4 today and was much relived by it, for I had heard several times lately that Woodbine had been completely destroyed. I was also afraid that you were having some difficulty in getting money enough to live comfortably up in Memphis, but I infer now, from the fact of your rebuilding your place on Front Row that you are in no immediate want of money. I am very sorry to hear that you have no gardener now to take care of Woodbine. Charley, I should have thought would have had better sense, but there is no a accounting for a fool Dutchman. I think that it would be much better if you could get some other family with cussed [?] gen [sic] Sherman to protect you to move out there again in the course of a month or two. I am afraid that the sickness will be terrible in Memphis this summer and that all families will have to leave, and I would, on account, if I could possibly avoid it, give up the place. It will, I think, be much better than remaining in town. Those guerrilla bands of ours that swarm around Memphis I think caused those people who live around there an immense deal of trouble, whilst they are doing the cause scarcely any good at all. If they were all compelled to join the regular army and to quit prowling all over the country, when they do just about as much harm as the enemy could possibly do, it would strengthen our army at other important points and do us more real service.
I would not advise you to come out of the Federal lines now, as much as I would like for you to be where I could see and hear from you, for you have no idea of how every place is crowded and the difficulty there is in living. Things are bad enough in this section of the country but they are much worse in Mississippi, provisions and everything are enormously high, butter two dollars a pound, eggs three dollars a dozen, and other things in the same proportion. It takes all of our pay to enable us to live at all well. I would advise you to remain where you are, or to go out to Woodbine, in preference to coming out of the lines, for I am afraid that you would suffer more away from Memphis than you would by remaining there. I am strongly of the opinion, too, that before many months we will have possession of every point on the River, that will compel the Federals to leave Tennessee altogether. Everything looks now as if we are going to have a rapid and decisive campaign this simmer. Genl Johns[t]on is in command in person now, and he will not remain quiet long. Van Dorn too is doing finely here. He captured about seven hundred Federals day before yesterday, and they can scarcely send a foraging party out now without having it captured. I think we will move forward from this point before this letter will reach you, and I have every confidence that we can now compel Rosencrans [sic] to leave the State.
I am very sorry to hear of the so much sickness in our family, but I hope that by this time you are all well again. You say, dear Ma, that you fear you never will be well again as long as this war lasts. Don't let it trouble you so much, and don't be uneasy about me for I am as well as I can be, and haven't the most remote idea of getting hurt since I came out of the at Murfreesboro fight without a scratch. Ed is in as safe a place too as he could be in, and I fear no danger at Vicksburg. He has a crazy idea of leaving there even if he has to resign he says. I have written to him very plainly on the subject, and don't want to see him leave there at all.
I hope, dear Ma, that you will not let yourself be troubled so, and that when I hear from you again you will be perfectly well. I would be as well satisfied as now, as I could possibly be under the circumstances, if I could only know that you were all perfectly well and living comfortably.
I suppose you have heard before this that Sam is certainly dead. I only heard it yesterday as certain. I saw Jim, who had been to see the Surgeon who had been left with the sick there. Jim is looking better than I have seen him for some time.
Tell Mrs. Doyle that all of "her boys" are as well as can be, and in fine spirits. Jim McKinney has gone to Charleston to run the blockade. He is going to Havana and Europe, I suppose.
I wrote to you that I had recd. the clothes some time ago and am a thousand times obliged for them. I am having a very pleasant time here, for there is any number of ladies with whom I amuse myself considerably, some of them are very passable specimens, and if this place was not so strongly Union in its feelings it would be a very pleasant place to live.
Tell Mr. Proudfit to write to me, and write yourself, dear Ma every chance you find. With all my best love to all I remain
Your affectionate son
John W. Harris
Ask Mr. Proudfit if he knows anything of a Dr. Dromgoole in Memphis. His sister asked me to make some enquiries about him when I wrote Memphis.
TSL&A Civil War Collection