the Diary of Clara Solomon:
Occupation of New Orleans
April 25, 1862, after successfully navigating past forts Jackson and
St. Philip near the mouth of the Mississippi River, Union Flag-Officer
David G. Farragut and his squadron demanded the surrender of the City
of New Orleans. This came to pass three days later, and on May 1 Major
General Benjamin Franklin Butler’s troops began arriving in town.
From that day until the end of the war, the Union Army occupied this
important and strategic "international city"; the largest
of the Confederacy.
In this journal entry, Clara writes of her experiences of the war during
the early weeks of Union occupation. She also reveals her attraction
to a few of the soldiers she had seen.
May 8th, 1862
6 ½ A.M. Two weeks have elapsed since the intelligence was first
received that the Federal gun-boats had passed our forts. The time has
seemed like months, but I am confident that when years shall elapse
my recollection of that memorable time will be as vivid. And now I ask
myself the question "what are we going to do?" Is not Pa coming
home, or he is going to send for us. Can we live in this isolated condition,
cut off from all communication with him. And yet I am hopeful, oh! so
hopeful that all will yet be well....
Tuesday was characterized by no important event. Sewed all day, my favorite
occupation, & almost finished a dress for [my younger sister] Fannie.
Seven dresses is but one apiece. I have completely got out of the humour
to study, so determined not to, but too brisk the storm of not knowing
them. Remained sewing until 2 ½ when I proceeded to adorn my
person. Wore my new dress with which I am in love. Eat [lunch] &
then departed on my loathsome way. With what different feeling had I
last trod that path [to school]. Then I breathed the air of a free city,
now I breathed the air tainted by the breath of 3,000 Federals &
trod a soil polluted by their touch
After supper [dinner] we went to Mrs. N.'s [Sarah Nathans]
Mrs. N. told us that she heard from a reliable source that [Union Major
General Benjamin] Butler [whose troops now occupy the city of New Orleans]
had opened the prison & allowed all the negroes to be released.
It is this fear which alarms me. I fear more from the negroes than Yankees
& an insurrection is my continual horror. But oh! so many rumors
are afloat. We should make up our minds to believe nothing.
was a fine day & being desirous of seeing something & of getting
out, she [Mrs. Nathan] concluded to go down town, & I & S. [my
sister Sallie] was to accompany her. Our toilettes being made we stepped
into the bus, a little after 12. Passed the scene of action the City
Hall, & all flashed across me. The Square is still occupied by some
[Union soldiers] & there are a few remaining tents there. But the
St. Charles [Hotel]! My heart sank within me when I beheld it. Never
in connection with the Yankees have I experienced such sensations. It
looks to be a perfect wreck. They are loitering around it, lying down,
playing cards, & their clothes hanging around. Oh! it was a loathsome
sight, & I wondered how men could submit to it. I couldnt.
Saw stragglers on my way to Canal St. & there saw more, who are
strutting along with such an air of defiance as I never saw, so scornful,
so unassuming. Their looks being, "We have conquered you".
They were sporting uniforms with any quantity of brass buttons. Oh!
that our streets should be ever disgraced. But few stores are opened
& in some that we went Con. [Confederate] money was refused.
This is to be ordinated as the Safety Committee are about issuing a
currency, shin plasters [private currency notes] being one of our greatest
nuisances. Canal St. did not present the same spectacle as in former
times. There was a dearth of ladies, & everything reminded me of
For the benefit of R.'s [our sister Rosa's]—we
took a ride in the cars, & frequently would spy a Yankee. One tore
my dress. A live Yankee stepped on it. They are subjected to every silent
insult by the ladies. A car on Camp St. containing a number of the last
named articles was hailed by some Fed. officers & as they walked
in the ladies walked out. As some officers came into their pews in Church
they vacated them, & it is said that they seemed to feel the insult.
We had a pleasant though solitary ride in the cars, which R. enjoyed
excessively. On our arriving at Canal St. sought our own omnibus &
I was wishing that the driver would be more dilatory than usual in coming
to his post, as I had a most formidable opportunity to see what was
going out. There were throngs of men, & contrary to commands I oftentimes
saw more than six conversing together at the corners, which "no
Had the good fortune to come up on the 'bus with [our acquaintance]
Emile Jarreau! He is so handsome, & the circumstance of his having
fought in the battle of Manassas tends to render him doubly attractive.
He still wears a W.A. [Washington Artillery] badge. I wonder if "he
isn't skeered of the Yankees". Repassed the wreck [the St. Charles
Hotel], & as I gazed upon it tears voluntarily sufficed my eyes
at the thought that one of our noblest institutions should be so disgraced
as to be the abode of the invaders of our soil. Was assisted from "our
carriage" by "Emile" & the pressure of his hand upon
my "kidded" ["gloved"] one was felt for many moments
after! Pshaw! Don't mind my foolishness. I am only in a jocular mood,
so pardon all extravagances.
I perceived an unusual excitement around the Powells' house & was
soon made wise of the fact from my own sense that the Yankees
were at the door. I was all curiosity & subsequently learned that
they, knowing that the house contained government stores, had come to
take possession of them; the family left the city on the first day of
the excitement. I took off my clothes, donned another dress, & went
to the corner. Mrs. N. [Sarah Nathan] & Olivia [Marks] were standing
at theirs, & by their invitation I joined them, & they insisted
on my remaining to dinner, which I did. Mr. M. [Marks] informed us concerning
news. Gen. Butler has allowed the Mayor & c. to resume their authorities,
promising not to interfere with civil powers, but no confidence is placed
in his word, & it is anticipated that he may at any moment violate
it. Mr. N. [Sammy Nathan of the Crescent Artillery] however is charged
with looking on the dark side of the picture & he prophecies that
there are bad times in store for us
The excitement at the corner increased & the tumult & confusion
was great. I never dreamed that the quiet precincts of Hercules St.
would they penetrate. Never imagined when looking at the house that
it would be guarded by "Yankee sentinels". They laughed
with the children, & seemed to be pleased & at their composure.
I do not feel so vindictive towards the poor privates, but their wretched
leaders are the ones for whom the gallows are awaiting. The juveniles
including ours screamed the "Bonnie Blue Flag" & some
daring ones waved the flag in their faces. They seemed to appreciate.
What a novel sight they seem to be. A crowd will be following a single
one, & yet I hear that their deportment has always been most gentlemanly
& I also heard that there were many handsome ones. Take care of
my heart, I must....
The Civil War
Diary of Clara Solomon: Growing Up in New Orleans, 1861-1862, edited
by Elliott Ashkenazi, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge,
LA, 1995, pp. 354-357.
Image of Clara Solomon care of Alice Dale Cohan.
Image of St. Charles Hotel, circa 1865-1869, by William H. Leeson. This
hotel was destroyed by fire in 1894. Image and information courtesy
of the New Orleans Public Library.
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