Courting and Singing the “Bonnie Blue Flag”

A couple of weeks later, near the end of the Summer, Clara is still broken-hearted that her hero, “Robert” Wheat fell at the Battle of Manassas. She tries to tell herself that it was a dream, but she knows it was true.

Her spirits are lifted when her friend, Annie leads a visit to one of the Spanish warships. There were Spanish warships in the port, after a mission to Mexico. One of Clara’s neighbors, Zulma Vienne, was being courted by a Spanish naval officer. Clara was charmed by the three midshipmen on the ship. They played the piano and sang songs. Of course, they sang the “Bonnie Blue Flag.” They ladies wrote their names for the officers, and the officers did the same for the ladies. The three officers promised to visit the ladies.

At the end of her diary, her thoughts went back to her dear Robert. She prayed that he and Clara would meet in Heaven. Clara did not mention that Roberdeau Wheat was Christian and she was Jewish. She promised to find for him a robe. And, that remark drew her diary to an end in the late Summer of 1862.

Paper was short in 1862 New Orleans. Clara may have kept other journals, but they have not found their way into modern times. For decades, Clara’s fate was unknown. But, eventually, she was located. She married an older man – by twenty years – after the war. Two years later, her husband died. She re-married again and had four daughters. When Clara died in 1907, the New Orleans Picayune recorded that she left “grief-stricken friends and four inconsolable daughters.” Her friends, said the newspaper, would cherish the memory of her brilliant mind and gentle heart.

Her dear father would die in 1874 at the relatively young age of 58, in difficult financial circumstances. His time as sutler for the Confederate army did not result in the financial success he had hoped. But, we expect his family loved him all the same.

Elliott Ashkenazi, ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 12, 436-444.



Maj. Wheat Falls

The worst that could happen did happen. At the Second Battle of Manassas, Maj. Wheat fell. The worst thing for Clara would have been the loss of her father. But, losing her beloved Roberdeau Wheat was a close second. Maj. Wheat was a legendary figure. He was filibusterer, something like a mercenary soldier and the son of a minister. I previously wrote about Maj. Wheat here.

The major was a close friend of the family. More than that, he was a dashing, gallant man who genuinely cared for the two Solomon sisters, Clara and Alice. She adored the man for his kindness. On hearing the news, she was disbelieving. He was so brave, so impetuous, she knew. Clara speculated that he may have died thinking about his mother with his “affectionate” heart.

Maj. Wheat’s death meant the end of the Louisiana Tigers, the name given to Wheat’s Special Battalion. But, in one young woman’s heart, Maj. Wheat lived ever again.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 12, 432-433.

School Ends, Friends Depart

School ended June 27, 1862. We might think Clara would be thrilled. She did not enjoy school. She was a senior, so this was the end of her school career. Yet, she was depressed by the end of school. There was no real news in the newspapers. None of the newspapers published news like her beloved Delta. More likely, she was simply tired from end of the year exams.

Or, as Clara indicated in the entry for the following day, she may have been depressed because she knew she may never see some of her dear friends, again. Families were slipping out of New Orleans frequently, to avoid the Yankees and to avoid the economic straits. During the Union blockade, commerce had essentially ceased in New Orleans. Under the Yankees, the economy had only marginally improved.

On June 29, Clara visited her sister, Alice’s school and noted Alice herself hesitated to dismiss her students, since this was the last school day and she might never see her students, again. Never is a long time.

Clara’s spirit brightened when a friend came with news that France had recognized the Confederate States of America. She believed England would not be far behind. She could not yet know France had not recognized the CSA and that no country would ever recognize the CSA. This was more false news in a city accustomed to false rumors.

She went down town with her sister and a male friend, Leo. They had ice cream at Vincent’s. There was a Vincent’s Confectionary at 67 St. Peter, in what we would describe today as the French Quarter.

Seeing some Yanks, she made faces at one young soldier. The female war on the invaders was just starting in June, 1862. Later, seeing the Federal sentinel, she and her sister, Alice, not only made faces at the guard, but Clara also lifted up her dress, touched her nose with her handkerchief. She and Alice then talked about yellow fever and the night air as they passed the young soldier. They hoped to frighten the soldier with the dangers of the Southern city. Most people of the day believed that yellow fever was more common among new immigrants. Clara, like most New Orleanians, believed a yellow fever epidemic would affect the new Union soldiers more than long-time residents. Clara concluded the evening was very entertaining. They had ice cream and they found opportunity to inflict vengeance on the invaders.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 423-427.