Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Gibson Family in the Civil War: Part II

Today, we continue with Rosamond Warren Gibson’s recollections of her time in New Orleans during the American Civil War:

“We reached New Orleans on March 29th, and found that friends had secured a delightful little house for us in the Rue Conti, run by a madame and her daughter. The rooms were filled with flowers, and a delicious breakfast greeted us. Our visit was a curious and interesting one, as the city was filled with Northern officers and their wives, and the few Southern women remaining there drew aside their skirts as we passed. Governor N. P. Banks (formerly Governor of Massachusetts, but at that time Military Commander of New Orleans) was the reigning king, and Admiral Farragut the hero. One evening we went to a large reception at the Governor’s where I was introduced to the Admiral and walked about on his arm. When I begged him to give us a gunboat to go home by the Mississippi River, as our passage through the Gulf had been such a horrid one, he said, “Oh yes, you can have two. Just ask Admiral Palmer,” (James S. Palmer) who was a friend of Mr. Hammond’s. As the pilot of one boat arrived next day with the top of his head shot off by sharp-shooters, we decided we had better stick to the Gulf! There were many of our friends there from Boston, and others who were in and out all day long, bringing flowers and news of the fighting up the river. In the evenings we sat talking and singing with the windows open."

"Mrs. Banks was very kind and invited us several times to the theatre and to receptions, but as my sister was not strong, we amused ourselves informally, walking or driving by the lake, where the trees were all draped with strange hanging moss. The whole place seemed foreign and romantic, especially to a girl who was still in her ’teens. Many of our friends from home were in the army and some were there on business. Of the Dwight family, William was away on what was called the “Red River Expedition” and Dan was also up the river part of the time. Charlie was stationed in New Orleans and was with us constantly, as were Mr. George W. Amory, John Palfrey, and a Major Keating, all doing their best to entertain and amuse us."

"We had a more comfortable passage back, a pleasant stop at Havana, laying in guava jelly and attractive things to bring home, and at last were landed in New York again, thankful to be safely home after a never-to-be-forgotten trip.”

What I find so fascinating about this account is just how sheltered Rosamond was from the violent war that was occurring all around her. The story about wanting to take a boat up the Mississippi River to get home, so that they would be more comfortable, really brings this point home. Doesn’t she realize that there’s a war going on? That maybe being on a boat on the Mississippi isn’t very safe? Even when she’s told why she can’t have the boat, she seems so nonchalant about it!

I have to wonder how prevalent this attitude was among the upper classes, especially in the North. That would explain a lot about why records of the Gibson family don't contain references to this period.

by: Katie Schinabeck, Former Museum Guide


Warren, Rosamond Gibson. Recollections of My Life For My Children. Meador Press, 1939.