But one spring day in April, 1861, all Richmond was astir. Schools were broken up, and knots of excited men gathered at every street corner. Sumter had been fired upon, and Lincoln had ordered the men of Virginia to rush upon their brethren of the South and put the rebellion down. Now “the die was cast,” our lot was with theirs, and come weal or woe, we would fight for independence. How merrily the sunbeams danced that day! how proud we children were of the great preparation for the illumination that night!—how few recked of the great underthrob of misery, grief and want! Every patriotic citizen had his house ablaze with a thousand lights, and the dark ones were marked. I remember distinctly my father taking us to see the Exchange Hotel and Ballard House with the glass balcony, stretching over the street and connecting the two houses, all glittering and reflecting the crystal lights. To us it was a great spectacle, and our hearts swelled with pride to think we could say to our tyrants: “Thus far shalt thou come, and no further.”
The excitement permeated the schools, and those of our number who lived in the dark houses, or the non-illuminators, were dubbed “Yankees,” “Abolitionists” and “Black Republicans,” and virtually ostracised. Saturdays we would spend in the lecture-rooms of the different churches we attended, where our mothers and grown-up sisters were busy plying the needle, and cutting out clothes for the soldier boys, and indulging in such talk about the vile usurpers as would fire our young hearts with indignation. Snatches of song improvised for the emergency—”Maryland, my Maryland,” “John Brown’s Body,” “There’s life in the Old Land Yet,” &c.— grew as familiar as “I want to be an Angel.” In fact, we had a parody which ran thus:
I want to be a soldier,
And with the soldiers stand,
A knapsack on my shoulder,
And musket in my hand;
And there beside Jeff Davis,
So glorious and so brave,
I’ll whip the cussed Yankee
And drive him to his grave.
But what were our boys doing while the girls were sewing up sand-bags to fortify Drewry’s Bluff? It seemed the “Demon of Destruction” was possessing the whole land. The boys were keeping their patriotism warm by playing “Yank” and “Reb” in mock battles, and so sorely did these young archers wound each other that steps had to be taken by the city authorities toward the suppression of these hostilities. I remember being on Church Hill on one occasion, when the rowdies from Rocketts, calling themselves Yankees, came upon our boys who were unarmed. Immediately our party of little girls flew to a coal-house near, which happened to be open for replenishing, and filling our little aprons with the dusky diamonds ran into the midst of a hot battle, screaming with all the enthusiasm of our young natures, “Kill them! kill them!” We bound up heads and filled pockets with “ammunition” till our nurses, noticing our escapade, came to carry us to our mammas to be punished for soiling our dresses.
— Miss Sallie Hunt, of Lynchburg, Va.; from “Our Women in the War.” The Lives They Lived; The Deaths They Died, Charleston: The News and Courier Book Presses, 1885.