Emma Florence LeConte 18471932

Elite Southerner Emma LeConte, like many of her countrywomen, experienced the Civil War on the home front. LeConte, the daughter of a prominent scientist, kept a brief, but descriptive, journal of her time in Columbia, South Carolina. Her journal, which she began on December 31, 1864, illuminates home front life through August 6, 1865. In her journal, LeConte details shortages, volunteer efforts, attitudes about the Confederacy, and the Union invasion of the state's capital. Throughout the war, and despite the mounting Southern losses, LeConte remained an ardent Confederate who maintained her belief in slavery and rejoiced at U.S. president Abraham

Lincoln's assassination and mourned Confederate president Jefferson Davis's capture.

During the Civil War, LeConte and her family lived near the campus of South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina), where her father had been a science professor until the outbreak of war. As her father helped the Confederacy by producing medicines and working at the niter works, Emma, her mother, and her sisters spent much of their time sewing clothes and blankets for Confederate soldiers as they themselves dealt with wartime shortages. Like other women of their class, they also continued their social life during the war, visiting members whose kinsmen had departed for the battlefield resulted in numerous female enclaves, especially across the South. Additionally, assuming that they could find safety and food there, many Confederate women refugeed to Southern cities, whose populations ballooned during wartime. For example, the population of Richmond, Virginia, which was approximately 40,000 at the start of the war, doubled in size by 1861, and continued to grow throughout the war. The mass influx of people contributed to food shortages and poor sanitary conditions in the city. In 1863, one observer concluded that the city ''was never intended to hold so many people'' (Massey 1964, 75). Still other women, who had no relatives nearby or could not make it to the cities, sometimes took refuge in caves in the hilly areas. For example, hundreds of women sought safety in the caves surrounding Vicksburg, Mississippi.

African American women, too, often experienced the war as refugees. Some enslaved women accompanied owners who moved during the war. Still others ran from slavery. Although they did not run away as frequently as did their male counterparts, many African American women fled for safety when the opportunity presented itself, leaving their homes in the slave quarters for freedom behind Union lines. There they often volunteered as laundresses or nurses for the Union Army or simply followed the soldiers on their marches. Approximately 25,000 slaves followed Union general William T. Sherman for at least part of his March through Georgia and the Carolinas. The dangers of running from slavery and the fears of retribution from white slaveholders kept many African Americans in the South.

Not all refugees had a choice of whether they should risk staying in the homes or take flight. Union military policies intentionally created friends and family when the opportunities presented themselves.

Emma and her family experienced a Union invasion firsthand when Union general William Tecumseh Sherman and his soldiers attacked and ultimately captured Columbia in February 1865. Although relatively confident that enemy soldiers were headed their way, Emma and many of her countrywomen went about their efforts on behalf of the Confederacy throughout January and early February 1865. In particular, they planned and attended a bazaar to raise funds for Southern soldiers. Sherman's approach forced the bazaar to close a few days early, but did not necessarily dampen the spirits of the participants. In her journal, Emma described not only the Columbia bazaar, but also the preparations for the Union invasion, the evacuation of some of the city's residents and all of its soldiers, the arrival of Union troops, and the destruction that the enemy visited upon the city.

Although unhappy with the ultimate failure of the Confederate bid for independence, Emma did not waver in her commitment to Southern ideals. She attended local dances with returning Confederate soldiers and married a Confederate veteran, Farish Carter Fur-man. Emma LeConte Furman died in 1932.

thousands of refugees in Atlanta, Georgia, and a few other towns. After his capture of the Atlanta in September 1864, for example, Sherman ordered the evacuation of all of the city's civilians. On September 8, Sherman issued Special Field Order Number 67, requiring the removal of the hostile civilian population. Of the more than 1,600 evacuees, most were women and children. The policy's effect on women roused the ire of people throughout the Confederacy, who thought that the policy was immoral.

Was this article helpful?

+1 0

Post a comment