The Sunday Newspaper

On May 25, 1862, Clara received her favorite hobby, the Sunday newspaper. But, on this Sunday, her beloved Daily Delta newspaper had a new motto: “The Union – it must and shall be preserved.” The young Clara was horrified. She told the newspaper boy to take it away. He apologized, saying they were compelled to sell the newspaper. “They” – apparently meaning the Federal authorities – made them sell the newspaper. They have ruined his business, he added. Clara liked his sense of patriotism.

Clara described the Delta as a Yankee newspaper. It was, she said, formerly a secession newspaper. Clara handed the newspaper to her mother when she descended the stairs, “Ain’t you glad that the Delta is restored to us?” she asked sarcastically. Her mother was just as horrified by the new motto.

A day later, Clara appreciates the cooler weather, but wishes it was hotter. She knew that hotter weather would bring disease and yellow fever. Yellow jack, she hoped, would kill some of the many Yankee soldiers then invading her city. “God is just,” she reminded herself. “In him is our trust.” More Union soldiers arrived everyday, she lamented.

She notes the many “house-servants” who were kindly treated, yet deserted their families. She was referring to house slaves who left for freedom. She assured herself she would inflict severe punishment if one of her servants deserted her. And, in truth, the family did have one slave, Lucy, who stayed with the family until long after the war. The population of the city changed dramatically during the Yankee occupation. Slaves came from all over South Louisiana for freedom under Union protection. Historians tell us the percentage of black populace increased dramatically during this time period. Clara might have trouble understanding persons seeking freedom. Too modern ears, that sounds so strange.

Looking back 150 years later, as we can, we note that Clara never referred to house slaves as “slaves.” To the young Clara, they were always “servants.” It was those little things, perhaps, that helped the otherwise decent people live with that indecent institution.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 380-384.

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