Local Book Review: Kate Stone’s Brokenburn, with Mentions of Delhi and Crew Lake

brokenburnIf you are interested in Civil War or local history in Northeast Louisiana, a really good book I recently read is one that was originally written during that time, called Brokenburn – The Journal of Kate Stone (1861-1868). A beautifully written account of what life was like from day to day for her family and friends during the war. Brokenburn, a large cotton plantation in northeast Louisiana, about thirty miles northwest of Vicks- burg, Mississippi. Located in what is now Madison Parish in the floodplain of the Mississippi, Brokenburn lay in the fertile, flat land created by centuries of overflow. Opened to settlement in 1839, the rich land had attracted many planters from Mississippi and the eastern cotton states.

While the only real battles occurred to the east and west of Richland Parish, the movements of the two armies interrupted the lives of almost everyone who lived here in the 1860’s. Brokenburn: The Journal of Kate Stone is a fantastic account of these times. I purchased a copy and read it on my Kindle from Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Brokenburn-Journal-1861-1868-Southern-Civilization/dp/0807120170

This journal records the Civil War experiences of a sensitive, well-educated, young southern woman. Kate Stone was twenty when the war began, living with her widowed mother, five brothers, and younger sister at Brokenburn, their plantation home in northeastern Louisiana. When Grant moved against Vicksburg, the family fled before the invading armies, eventually found refuge in Texas, and finally returned to a devastated home. Kate began her journal in May, 1861, and made regular entries up to November, 1865. She included briefer sketches in 1867 and 1868. In chronicling her everyday activities, Kate reveals much about a way of life that is no more: books read, plantation management and crops, maintaining slaves in the antebellum period, the attitude and conduct of slaves during the war, the fate of refugees, and civilian morale. Without pretense and with almost photographic clarity, she portrays the South during its darkest hours.

Here are some references in Kate’s journal to well known places in today’s Richland Parish. Though Richland Parish would not officially become a parish until after the war, as you can see below, the communities of Crew Lake and Delhi are both mentioned.

“The news of today is that our men were repulsed at Milliken’s Bend and are falling back to Delhi. A very different account from the first. It is hard to believe that Southern soldiers—and Texans at that—have been whipped by a mongrel crew of white and black Yankees. There must be some mistake. Mamma and Johnny with several other swampers went into Monroe at 2 o’clock this morning to take the cars to Delhi, intending to go in to their places if feasible. Fortunately they missed their train and will now await further developments. All of us were busy from 5 o’clock until dusk making mattresses for the wounded soldiers expected at Monroe from the fight at Milliken’s Bend.”

“Monday Miss Sarah, Mr. Wadley, and I went to a fish fry given by Mrs. Wilson at Crew Lake. It was tiresome and I was sorry I went.”

“Mrs. Proctor, a widow you read about, was talking most of the day about Capt. Catlin with a most conscious air. She evidently thinks him a great catch. Aunt Laura spent Sunday with us, our last day together. She went off in fear and trembling but is determined to get through if possible. She is such a sensitive, nervous woman that it will be a great ordeal for her, but it could not be helped.” (54 & 55)

For more about Kate Stone, visit: https://www.civilwarwomenblog.com/kate-stone/

  1. The Battle of Milliken’s Bend began about daylight on June 7 and lasted most of the morning. The white and Negro Federal troops were driven from their fortifications back to the levee, but two Federal gunboats came to their assistance. The Confederates withdrew to Richmond and sent their wounded to Monroe. When Walker withdrew to Delhi a few days later, the Federals attacked his rear and burned Richmond completely on June 15. Richmond was never rebuilt.—Blessington, Walker’s Texas Division, 95–126; Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant, I, 456; Benjamin Quarles, The Negro in the Civil War (Boston, 1953), 220–24.
  2. General Grant stated: “This was the first important engagement of the war in which colored troops were under fire. These men were very raw, having all been enlisted since the beginning of the siege [of Vicksburg], but they behaved well.”—Personal Memoirs of V. S. Grant, I, 456; see also Quarles, The Negro in the Civil War, 224.
Published by Louisiana State University Press Copyright 1955, 1972 by John Q. Anderson New material copyright © 1955 by Louisiana State University Press All rights reserved Manufactured in the United States of America Louisiana Paperback Edition, 1995 ISBN 978-0-8071-2017-0 (alk. paper) Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 55-7363 Ninth printing, 2012

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