“Conquered, Submission, Subjugation… “ Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Kate Stone’s journal, from which the above quote and the following excerpt come, shows an inside look at the life of upper-class Southerners and the ordeals they faced during the war and as refugees. Stone’s journal also shows the intense loyalty that many Southerners felt for those who fought in the war and their desire for a South independent from Northern influences and governmental control, evidenced by Stone’s own words. By reading and understanding this document, modern audiences can gain a better perspective of the Southern point of view during the Civil War and the costs they bore; they can also come to understand how the war affected one girl who beforehand had faced very little conflict in her life. The changes through which she lived, as well as the hardships she faced, show the fervent hope of each Southerner and the decay of that hope as the war drew to a close.

Summary Overview

Kate Stone’s journal, from which the above quote and the following excerpt come, shows an inside look at the life of upper-class Southerners and the ordeals they faced during the war and as refugees. Stone’s journal also shows the intense loyalty that many Southerners felt for those who fought in the war and their desire for a South independent from Northern influences and governmental control, evidenced by Stone’s own words. By reading and understanding this document, modern audiences can gain a better perspective of the Southern point of view during the Civil War and the costs they bore; they can also come to understand how the war affected one girl who beforehand had faced very little conflict in her life. The changes through which she lived, as well as the hardships she faced, show the fervent hope of each Southerner and the decay of that hope as the war drew to a close.

Defining Moment

At the beginning of the Civil War, Kate Stone’s journal expresses her hope and expectation, like that of many Southerners, that the South gaining its independence and becoming the Confederate States of America was inevitable. More than this, it is also a record of the daily life and movements of a typical southern aristocrat, which for a modern audience sheds light on one section of society that underwent drastic and extensive changes between their lives and statuses before the war and after its conclusion. While not always the most exciting read, the journal of Kate Stone provides extensive evidence concerning the private and social lives of southern women.

Although the section which is highlighted in this analysis is more concerned with the reception of General Robert E. Lee’s army as it was forced back and into submission toward the end of the Civil War, it is all too easy for modern audiences to forget that daily machinations of life continued on for those not directly involved with the fighting. This is not to say that Kate Stone, her family, and all of those around her were not aware of the on-goings of the war or that they lived their lives free from fear and doubt–from the entries in her journal, it can be seen that this is not so. For days before the entry of May 15, which begins, “Conquered, Submission, Subjugation,” Stone describes the heavy nature of the household and the desultory and depressed moods of herself and her family members. But through this despair, they continued to meet with friends and family, have social visits, and continue their lives. These may no longer be joyful, or even cheerful, events, but they were a mandatory part of aristocratic life and this what not a part that could be put aside or completely left behind because the tide of the war was not to favor the South. Social traditions were, and are, strong in the South and must be conducted no matter the circumstances. Kate Stone’s journal shows this peculiarity of Southern aristocratic life at the same time that it reveals information about General Lee’s army near to the end of the Civil War.

Author Biography

Most of what is known about Kate Stone comes from the journal written by her own hand, an excerpt on which is the document to be discussed below. Beginning in 1861, when she was twenty years old, Kate Stone’s life is chronicled as she moves from her simple life as a daughter of a Louisiana cotton plantation owner to a much more complex existence, dealing with the hardships that went hand in hand with civilian life during the Civil War. Her family owned the plantation Brokenburn, after which her journal is named, in Northern Louisiana and also owned about one hundred and fifty slaves. This was not uncommon in that part of the state, where African slaves outnumbered whites almost ten to one.

Throughout her journal, Kate Stone shows her incredible devotion to the Confederate States. She writes that her brother and uncle both joined the Confederate Army and her pride in their actions is matched only by her distain and scorn for any men of appropriate age who did not volunteer to go to war. But the war soon came home for Kate and, in 1862, her family was forced to move to Texas, taking up a sort of refugee status. This change in social status, from upper class to middle class, at best, was viewed as an indignity which she should not have to bear. This problem was only one that she would face, however, and when Lee’s army started their retreat close to the end of the war, Kate was forced to realize that the Southern Independence which she had believed in so strongly was not to be.

Years later, Kate Stone commented on the journal entries that she had made during those turbulent war years. In 1900, after growing up and eventually having her own children, she recognized the error of her ways during her youth. She had been vain and lacked empathy and understanding for viewpoints other than her own. Fortunately, she eventually came to recognize the folly of her youth, prizing family and freedom over the material possessions that had meant so much to her at one time.

Document Analysis

The journal of Kate Stone, from which the above excerpt is taken, shows the daily life of a Southern woman from an aristocratic family, who was forced out of her established life and home by the Civil War and forced to relocate, in this case to Texas. The journal covers a large time period, all of which is during the Civil War, but this excerpt, which includes several journal entries, comes from May 1865, specifically May 9 to May 15. While the title of this article, “Conquered, Submission, Subjugation,” quotes the opening lines of Stone’s May 15 entry, the entries from previous days are necessary foils to this specific record, allowing modern audiences to see how daily life for Southerners unfolded, what aspects they held most dear, and how the closing of the Civil War and the defeat of General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army affected them.

Daily Life for Stone and her Family

Kate Stone’s journal entry for May 9 starts off with several innocuous references to the daily events in which her family are participating. Her mother left to visit with a neighbor and three letters arrived. Even though none of this information is particularly ground shattering in its individuality or its pertinence to American history, it is a necessary and personal look at the parts of social life that were held dear by Kate Stone, specifically, and by the Southern populace, generally. She also continues her journal entry by repeating some of the information that came from a letter sent by Missie Morris, possibly either a friend or a relative. Her own point of view, that of a young, unmarried woman, is apparent in this section of the entry as she is interested in how the young women in Homer, Missouri are faring with the soldiers posted in the town. She compares their town to her own home in Tyler, Texas and remarks on how no weddings or engagements have been announced. Such remarks show her perception of the news and how life continues on even during war times–people visit, fall in love, get married–and Stone is very interested, like many girls her age, in keeping up with such information about the people whom she knows.

Stone goes on to explain about her family’s relocation and how they are settling into their new home. If it had not already been known, her remark that servants are “plentiful,” would surely give away her status as part of a wealthy family. Also, the following description of how each family member spent their free time for that day would show their status, as leisure was a luxury which few could afford, especially when just completing a household move to a different state. Kate Stone, herself, seems to be mostly at peace with her family’s move, although her comment about the possibility of “stern Fate” casting them out into the world again shows that she is not happy to have been forced to leave her home, even if she supports the war which was the cause for the move.

Much of the rest of the journal entry consists of more details concerning her visits with family and neighbors, some of which occurred in the company of a Confederate soldier named Lieutenant Holmes. There is a generally positive tone to her words, even though her life is in some turmoil and she finds some of those with whom she visits to no longer have the zeal for independence that she herself feels. She is also forced to interact with some Union loyalists–whom she finds distasteful and tiresome. Part of this mentality comes from her own loyalties to the South and the Confederacy, but part of it may also be due to her own wish for a conclusion to the war. As she mentions in the last paragraph of this entry, she and her family are afraid. Their life is good momentarily, but they have no idea how fleeting it might be. Even though most of her entry seems to depict a quiet and peaceful life, the Civil War was an ever present worry in the minds of everyone, north or south, Unionist or Confederate.

Emotional Turmoil at the End of the War

From Stone’s entries, it is apparent that she is very connected with the on-goings of the war, especially as members of her own family and one of her close friends, and possible romantic entanglement, Lieutenant Holmes, serve as soldiers. In her May 15 entry, however, her recitation of events shows the true depths of her emotions for any and all who fight for “her” side of the war and the horror that is the defeat of the Confederacy. Stone’s dreams and struggles have now all been empty, as everything which she and her family have sacrificed for, including their move to another state and abandonment of many of their possessions, were given in vain. Stone is eloquent, but also nearly hysterical, in her journal as she relates this experience.

Kate Stone makes her feelings about the end of the war more than abundantly clear when she states, as dramatically as few other than a young woman can, that “we will be slaves, yes slaves, of the Yankee Government.” Her grief at the loss of the war is amplified because, as she goes on to say, she has lost her brothers and now their death has been for nothing. They did not die for a new and free Confederate state, but in an abortive attempt to create a new government which has now been surrendered and abandoned. She does state, however, that many soldiers and civilians hold out hope that there will be another push against the Union or that surrender is not inevitable. But even as she writes those words, she knows that such a turn of events is not likely or even reasonable. The South was defeated and now all that is left to Stone is to try to reconcile herself with this outcome–one that she had seemingly never entertained before.

While surrender has not officially been announced or gone into effect, and would not until May 24, Stone is under no illusion about the state of war. The confusion of May 9 is now alleviated–as she states that there is no longer any hope for Southern independence in this war. In this same paragraph, she also describes her fears for what will happen now and how the war will affect her life–”…Submission to the Union…, Confiscation, and Negro equality…” While to modern audiences, equality for all men may seem to be a good outcome and one of the most famous consequences of the Civil War, it was one of the greatest fears for Southern men and women. It was also one that would irrevocably change Kate Stone’s life and livelihood.

In Stone’s second to last paragraph she spends some time talking about John Wilkes Booth, one of the most infamous men in American history. Instead of the most prevalent opinion, that Booth was a villain due to his assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Stone clearly holds a different opinion. She is glad that he was able to end the life of the Union President and only despairs that Booth was not able to escape his own death. This may seem shocking to modern readers, but it works in conjunction with Stone’s known hatred for all things northern or Union, most especially the President who would have stood victorious over the ruined Confederacy if he had not been killed. Such insights into Stone’s mind aid modern audiences to be able to better understand the mentality which some Southerners held, especially through their defeat.

In Stone’s last paragraph of her May 15 journal entry, she once again returns to a description of daily life–her mother sewing a jacket for Lieutenant Holmes and the receipt of a letter. These actions are clearly described with a heavy tone fitting with the idea that life continues to go on, even though the war has come to an unfavorable conclusion for those included in this journal. Stone and her friends and family have another social gathering, although the purpose of this one is “to condole with each other,” instead of the more light-hearted gatherings described previously. Their lives are now taking another turn and they are trying to find a way to deal with the events that are to come–specifically regarding the consequences of being southern loyalists in a newly unified nation.

As stated, Kate Stone’s journal holds information that is invaluable to those who would look into the daily life and times of an aristocratic girl who had to deal with the trials and tribulations of a civil war–especially one in which she was on the losing side. Her devastation shows how the Southern cause was no mere irritation at the rules of the Union, but a belief that the South should truly be a separate nation, with its own regulations and no overbearing central government. When this goal was no longer feasible, the people of the South were crushed and afraid. Kate Stone shows these emotions and brings life and personality to events that could too easily be lost. If those who are defeated in any conflict lose their voices, then it would be too easy for the same issues to be fought over again. With documents such as the writings of Kate Stone, hopefully, some life will be returned to the defeated so that they are not silenced in history.

Essential Themes

The lasting significance of this document may vary from person to person, scholar to scholar, reader to reader. This author, however, tends to see the significance in the fact that Kate Stone left a well-preserved and dedicated report of her life, times, and tribulations. By comingling the bland and basic every day details of her life with her more flowery and expressive views of the Civil War and her hope for an independent Confederacy, Kate Stone created an impression of a whole person memorialized in script. She did not include one part of her life and leave out another, nor did she focus on the war to the exclusion of more common occurrences, such as betrothals and social visits with family and friends.

Furthermore, Kate Stone was not a well-rounded and completely level-headed young woman. She was virulent in her opinions and beliefs that the South would win the war and become independent. So, by the end of the war when it was clear that Lee would be defeated and the Confederacy would once again be brought under the control of the Union, her outpouring of grief over the loss of that longed-for independence helps to understand the mood of the Confederate nation. At this point, she drops the proper Southern woman veneer and indulges in her fear of being subjugated again and hatred for those she perceives to be some kind of hated overlord. Such flair allows for modern audiences to bridge the gap between a woman from the 1800s south and the modern time, because this type of pain is universal, especially for young men and women who have had their desires and wishes overturned and made all for naught.

Bibliography
  • Stone, Kate. “Brokenburn: The Journal Of Kate Stone.” Ed. John Q. Anderson. Louisiana State UP, n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2013.
  • Wilson, Edmund. Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War. New York: Oxford UP, 1962. Print.
Additional Reading
  • Gallaway, B. P. Texas, The Dark Corner of the Confederacy: Contemporary Accounts of the Lone Star State in the Civil War. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1994. Print.
  • “Kate Stone and Fan Butler: Transcript of Video.” Civil War Reconstruction: Mini Documentary. PBS, n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2013.
  • Marten, James Alan. Texas Divided: Loyalty and Dissent in the Lone Star State, 1856-1874. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1990. Print.
  • Sears, Stephen W., ed. The Civil War: The Second Year Told By Those Who Lived It. New York: Penguin, 2012. Print.
  • Simpson, Brooks D., ed. The Civil War: The Third Year Told By Those Who Lived It. New York: Penguin, 2013. Print.
  • Stone, Kate. Brokenburn: The Journal of Kate Stone, 1861-1868. Ed. John Q. Anderson. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1955. Print.
  • “Texas During the Civil War.” N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Aug. 2013.
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