Ship Island and Mrs. Phillips

A couple of days later on July 3, 1862, Clara was again feeling patriotic. She was certain Gen. Beauregard was the new father of the country and would lead the South to victory. Yet, she mentioned, he had been removed from command. She fervently believed, as did most New Orleanians at the time, that Beauregard was the second George Washington, a new “Father of the country.” Most white Southerners at the time firmly believed they were engaged in a second American revolution.

She learned that day that Mrs. Eugenia Phillips, the mother of Clara’s good friend, Beauty Phillips, had been arrested by the Provost Marshal. Gen. Butler sent her to Ship Island. The island was a small island off the coast of Louisiana. It was and still is a simple barrier island. Her stated offense was to laugh from her balcony as the funeral procession of 1LT George DeKay passed by. It made no difference to Beast Butler that Mrs. Phillips was presiding over a children’s party on the balcony. Mrs. Phillips (nee Levy) was married to Philip Phillips, a former Congressman from Alabama. They had evacuated to New Orleans during the war. Philip Phillips was a good friend of Judah Benjamin, the Secretary of War for the Confederacy. The Benjamins and the Phillips were prominent members of the Jewish community in New Orleans.

Eugenia Phillips was also patriotic. When Gen. Butler asked her why she was laughing as the funeral procession passed by, she replied, “I was in good spirits that day.” The general also learned that in the years leading up to the war, Mrs. Phillips was one of the ladies in Pres. Buchanan’s “boudoir cabinet.” That meant she supported secession and supported the expansion of slavery. The general suggested she apologize. She refused, saying she intended no insult. The general then flew into a rage and accused her of teaching the nine children at the party to spit on Federal officers.

In revenge, the general issued orders sending her to Ship Island. The general said explicitly that she was a “common” woman, meaning she would be treated as a prostitute. The city was shocked. Clara was deeply offended. She loved her good friend, Beauty Phillips. What Clara did not mention, perhaps it was just too difficult even for her diary, was that Gen. Butler did not care for Jews. It is not clear if he was actually anti-semitic, but historians agree he did not care for persons who happened to be Jewish.

There were some 60 prisoners consigned to Ship Island. A bookseller received two years because he displayed the skeleton of what he claimed to be a dead Union soldier in the window of his shop. The general closed his shop. A druggist was chained to a ball working on the island’s fortifications because he tried to try to smuggle quinine into the City. The publisher of the Daily Delta was sent to the island because he used seditious language and tried to investigate the general’s penal system. Mrs. Phillips lived in an open box car, exposed to the heat and the mosquitoes.

The City and the South in general were offended regarding Mrs. Phillips because the punishment was so severe, but also because Mrs. Phillips was mother to nine children. The mother of nine would be released by the general a few months later on Sept. 14, after much public pressure. Mrs. Phillips employed much more skill at public relations than Gen. Butler. She wrote frequent letters to friends which were well-circulated, describing the harsh conditions on the island. Truly, the general succeeded in doing what the secessionists could not, he united the white citizens of the City against the Union forces.

Yet, Clara also recorded that day that she went on a long walk with another friend, Alice Jarreau, a Catholic. They saw Yankee soldiers, but due to Alice’s timidity, they made no protest toward the soldiers. They engaged in a spirited discussion on religion, but then went home. She could not help noticing the handsome officers on Gen. Butler’s staff. The general had seized a home on the Garden District for his headquarters. Doubtless, she had walked past his headquarters. In the end, it was a good day for Clara, except for Eugenia Phillips.

Chester G. Hearn, When the Devil Came Down to Dixie (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1997), pp. 142, 169-170.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 12, 429-431.

Yankees Everywhere

The Yankees were everywhere. If they were in Clara’s neighborhood, which was some 20 blocks from the city center, then they were everywhere in New Orleans. Clara and her friends and family often encountered the Yankee soldiers on their forays into the City. On July 1, 1862, Clara gloried in the Summer months and their daily rain showers. She lamented the lack of flour in the City’s markets. Simply walking in her neighborhood, she and her sister, Alice, saw some Yankee soldiers. Clara could not resist the temptation to give them “some tongue” – which likely meant they stuck their tongues out at them. Her sister Alice did not approve. But, Clara was always the patriot.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 427-428.


Yankee Land

The New Orleans economy apparently was improving a bit. Hoops for skirts were suddenly available at a much reduced price. They came from “Yankee land,” said Clara. Clara commented briefly that there was no point in refusing to buy Yankee products when most folks were buying the much cheaper hoops. Even Clara’s patriotism had its limits.

Clara’s anger toward Gen. Butler did not subside. In her entry for June 22, 1862, she day dreamed about every lady in New Orleans throwing a rope around his neck and giving it a good pull.

Clara enjoyed a bowl of okra soup, perhaps referring to what we refer today as okra gumbo. It was the first of the season. Clara was Jewish, of course. She attended school. The school held session on Saturdays. Even though she often did not attend temple, she did not go to school on Saturdays. So, she was quite relieved when she was nevertheless promoted to her senior year. She was quite worried.

Little Josie was practicing her talking, “Jepp Dabis and Beaudegard,” apparently re-living her encounter with the Yankee soldier.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 8, 419-421.

A Letter from Pa

At last, the Solomon family received another letter from Pa in Virginia. It arrived June 21, 1862 and was written on May 11. As most letters came at the time, it came via someone traveling to New Orleans. Clara received the letter herself and recognized the hand-writing immediately. Clara waxed eloquently about her fondness and love for her father and simply rejoiced a thousand different ways for the receipt of a letter from her “idolized” father. Pa worried they did not have enough money. He suggested they borrow from Adolphe Mazareau, not knowing he had been sent to prison at Ft. Jackson for no apparent reason. Pa said business had been good at the sutler store. But, as Solomon Solomon will find out, by the end of the war, he will have profited only slightly from running a sutler store for the Confederate army.

There was much talk about a letter received by a friend from her husband at Corinth, probably meaning Corinth, Mississippi. The people of New Orleans had learned by June 21, 1862 not to trust every letter someone claimed to have received. They had been burned by false news before. But, this letter included the names of dead and wounded. No one, Clara noted, would falsify a letter about mortalities. They were thrilled to receive a letter, simply because it was “genuine” (emphasis Clara’s). The letter contained some personal information, but the recipient copied her husband’s beautifully written description of the battle, so the city could share in the news. Clara decried it as torture being barricaded in the city, knowing these fierce, bloody battles were occurring, but with no way to find out any news about those who have sacrificed their lives on the “Altar of Liberty.” It was hard to live in an occupied city and not know if your loved ones and neighbors lived or died.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 8, 414-419.