Life Stories of Civil War Heroes banner

From the Diary of
Clara Solomon

Life of a Girl in New Orleans
During the Civil War


Clara Solomon

Clara Solomon was 16 when the war began. A native of New Orleans, she was the second of six daughters born to Solomon and Emma Solomon, members of an elite group of Sephardic Jews (members of the Jewish faith known to have assimilated successfully into Christian communities along the Eastern seaboard and in Louisiana).

Early in the war, Clara's father left his former business to serve as a sutler, supplying clothing and accoutrements to troops engaged in battles in Virginia. During his absence from the household, Solomon entrusted to his wife their home; supervision over their domestic housekeeper and their domestic slave; and care of their daughters Alice (a 19-year-old teacher at the nearby public school, the Webster School), Clara (a 16-year-old student at the Louisiana Normal School where girls studied to be teachers), Frances (their 14-year-old, also known as Fanny or Fannie), Sarah (their eight-year-old, also known as Sallie), Rosa (four), and Josephine (their one-year-old, also known as Josie).

Clara tells her life story from June 1961 to July 1862 in her journal, published as The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (edited by Elliott Ashkenazi). Her diary entries give modern readers insight into the thoughts and feelings of Southerners during the Union occupation of New Orleans, and before that period of the war. As an expressive and impressionable young woman, Clara also reveals a lot about her own character in her writing. While she betrays a rare, idealistic spirit not uncommon to her day and age, in many ways Clara is the typical, modern American teenager, in her self-consciousness about her appearance, complaints about her mother, frequent disinterest in her studies, and fickleness regarding her interest in young men.

An afterword to Clara's story is recounted by the editor. In 1866, Clara married Julius Lilienthal, a well-established jewelry merchant who was 20 years her senior. Julius, who was in poor health at the time of their marriage, died the following year while under the care of Dr. George Lawrence, a medical officer in the United States Navy. Six years later, Clara married Dr. Lawrence, and their union produced four daughters (Ida Mary, Sally Emma, Alice Rosa, and Elizabeth Elvina). In 1889, Clara's second husband passed away, leaving her a widow until her death in 1907. Though she had lived for a time in Arkansas with her second husband and four children, Clara's last residence was in New Orleans, her beloved home.

Excerpts from the diary of Clara Solomon—spanning the period of April through May 1862—are featured here. On these pages, text within brackets [ ] has been added for clarity, and text in sans-serif font (Arial) denotes background information and/or comments. Since paper was scarce during the war, each of Clara's journal entries was written as a single paragraph. However, for easier reading, passages presented here are broken into paragraphs.

April 8, 1862:   The Battle of Shiloh
April 8, 1862:   Family and Friends Lost in the Battle of Shiloh
April 19, 1862:   Collecting Goods for the Hospital at Corinth
May 8, 1862:   Federal Occupation of New Orleans
May 17, 1862:   Orders Issued by General Butler

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.

Image of Clara Solomon care of Alice Dale Cohan.


Look Index
Back | Home

Copyright © 2003 1st Dragoon's Civil War Site. All rights reserved.

Spider Map Index