“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.” The ladies wrote their names for the officers, and the officers did the same for the ladies. The three officers promised to visit the ladies.

Robert

At the end of her diary, her thoughts went back to her dear Robert. She prayed that he and Clara would meet in Heaven. Perhaps, it did not occur to her 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.

Paper was short in 1862 New Orleans. Clara may have kept other journals, but they have not found their way into modern history. 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 her 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 for which he had hoped. But, we expect his family loved him all the same.

Source:

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. I previously wrote about Maj. Wheat here.

He was a close friend of the Solomon family. More than that, he was a dashing, gallant man who genuinely cared for the two Solomon sisters, Clara and Alice. Clara 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.

Source:

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

The New Revolution

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.

Eugenia Phillips

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.” She could have told him about the children’s party. But, she preferred to antagonize the general. Eugenia was an ardent secessionist, more so than her husband

Gen. Butler 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.

Ship Island

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.

Mother of Nine

The City and most of the South were offended regarding Mrs. Phillips, because the punishment was so severe, and 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. Clara could not help noticing the handsome officers on Gen. Butler’s staff. The general had seized a home in 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.

Source:

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, 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.

Source:

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

School Ends

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 escape the economic straits. On June 29, she 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 fake news in a city accustomed to false rumors.

Ice Cream

She went downtown 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 some vengeance on the invaders.

Source:

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

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 was experiencing the improved economy in New Orleans after the Yankee occupation. The city could resume its trade with Northern cities and international ports.

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.

Source:

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 family received another letter from Pa in Virginia. It arrived June 21, 1862 and was written on May 11. As was common 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 that his family 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.

Corinth

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. The well-known Battle of Corinth occurred in October, 1862. This letter probably refers to Gen. Beauregard’s evacuation of Corinth, Mississippi in June, 1862.

This letter from Clara’s friend 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.  

Sources:

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

New Orleans Daily True Delta, June 20, 21, 1862, p. 2

Hurrah for Depp Dabis!

Beast Butler was in the newspaper again on June 19, 1862. His war with the foreign consuls had escalated. He told the consuls they could take their flags down and go home. They were not invited, said the invader. The “brute,” said Clara, was very insulting to the consuls.

She feared for the Confederate soldiers and officers in the City who were now required to take the oath of allegiance to the U.S. If they did not take the oath, they would be considered spies. As spies, they could be hanged. Why would Confederate soldiers and officers be in the City? For a variety of reasons. Some came home to recuperate from wounds. Some needed care from their families. Some were in the City pending exchange for Union officers. In imposing this requirement, Butler was making it exceedingly difficult for wounded Confederates to recuperate at home – which was quite common in that time period.

Clara did not think teachers would be required to take the oath. Clara was an occasional teacher.

Clara was holding her younger sister, Josie on the porch as a “Yank” walked by, meaning a Union soldier. Josie yelled out, “Hurrah! For Depp Dabis and Beauregard.” Josie, about 2 years old, obviously meant “Jeff Davis.” To Clara’s surprise, the soldier turned toward them with “such a sweet smile” on his face and seemed so surprised. His reaction “warmed” Clara’s heart. Clara found strength in news of a recent Confederate victory in Virginia, probably referring to continued success in the Shenandoah River valley.

Source:

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 8, 412-413.

Beast Butler Goes Too Far

In 1861, New Orleans was an international city. Some two dozen consuls were posted in the Crescent City representing their governments. Gen. Butler first encountered problems when he tried to confiscate gold and hard currency held by a bank. The bank had hidden the gold and currency with one of the consuls. Many of the banks had hidden their hard currency, knowing Gen. Butler would seize it and leave their depositors without funds. The French consul refused to produce a key to his vault. The U.S. soldiers seized him, undressed him until they found the key. Within the vault, they found $800,000 in Mexican silver. Gen. Butler won this battle, but the French consul was just starting to fight.

The British Militia

About that time Gen, Butler was addressing a different situation. Before the Union soldiers had arrived in April, the British consul had organized a militia force composed of some 60 English citizens. When the city fell without a fight, the British militia disbanded. But, they sent their weapons and uniforms to Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, the favorite son of New Orleans. In late May, annoyed by this donation. Gen. Butler insisted the British militia turn out with all their weapons and uniforms. Any Englishman who did not appear with his weapon and uniform would be forced to leave the city or be arrested. These 60 or so English citizens were prosperous men of standing. They did not care to be threatened simply for defending their adopted home and then for helping their neighbors.

The Wrath of the Consuls

The British Consul, George Coppell, protested. The Consul told the general he was violating international law. Butler did not care for the English. Many Americans still retained their distaste for the former colonizers. Butler challenged Coppell’s credentials as Consul. Gen. Butler arrested three Englishmen and sent them to the prison at Ft. Jackson. Ft. Jackson was an open air fort, infested with mosquitos. Mr. Coppell then communicated the problem to the British Foreign Minister in Washington, D.C., Lord Lyons.

Within days, Beast Butler was engaged in verbal wars with the Dutch and Greek Consuls. Gen. Butler now found himself very unpopular with his government back in Washington. A fight with the Spanish over some freight in a Spanish ship soon followed. The General issued Gen. Order No. 40, threatening to arrest any person, meaning U.S. citizen or not, who held property belonging to the Confederate States of America.

That order was quickly followed by Gen. Order No. 41 in mid-June, 1862. This order required all persons in the city to swear an oath of loyalty to the U.S. In a special paragraph for foreigners, this order required foreign born persons to swear an oath that they had not assisted any enemy of the U.S. The General knew he had supreme power in the city. He intended to use it. The consuls were infuriated. They raised a ruckus which eventually forced Gen. Butler from his position of supreme power.

Clara Solomon was equally aghast at General Order No. 41. She was, however, thrilled when family friend, D.G. Duncan was released from prison at Ft. Jackson. He was freed with no more explanation than when he was first arrested weeks before. She fretted again at the lack of letters from her pa in Virginia.

Sources:

Chester G. Hearn, When the Devil Came Down to Dixie (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1997), pp. 142-165.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 8, 410-411.

Butler Calls on Mrs. Beauregard

Life under occupation meant new surprises every day. On June 10, 1862, Clara was shocked that their neighbor, Sam Nathan had been arrested for murder. The Nathans were more than neighbors. They were like family. The Solomons did everything with the Nathans. Fortunately, he was cleared of the charge within a day or two. But, when the law enforcement is wielded by the enemy, fear rises exponentially.

Within a day, Clara records that the evil Gen. Butler called on Mrs. Beauregard, the wife of the great hero of the Crescent City, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. Gen. Beauregard was the  “national” hero of New Orleans before, during and after the war. Clara remarked that like a lady (“some think”), Mrs. Beauregard received him politely. Gen. Butler commented on Gen. Beauregard’s talent and bravery, but added it was a shame his talent was mis-directed.

Victory Meant Casualties

Clara thrilled to hear of Confederate victories in Virginia, apparently referring to the actions in the Shenandoah Valley. Yet, with the victory, a close family friend, Mrs, Gardner fretted over the fate of her two sons then serving in Virginia.

The Solomons heard that their good friend and neighbor, Adolphe Mazareau, the newly elected sheriff, would be sent not to the prison at Ft. Jackson, but sent much further away, up the Mississippi river. Clara watched unseen as the carriage bore their neighbor, Mr. Mazareau to some distant prison. He had been arrested for supposedly anti-Union activity, but with no apparent evidence. That was “justice” under Gen. Butler. It was a “sorrowful” sight as he was hauled away.

Source:

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 8, 402-406.