Sarah Lois Wadley, 1844-1920, was the daughter of William Morrill Wadley (c1812-1882) and Rebecca Barnard Everingham Wadley (fl. 1840-1884) and lived with her family in homes near Amite in Tangipahoa Parish, Monroe and Oakland in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, and near Macon, Georgia. Entries in the diary document in detail opinions and events in the life of an articulate and alert young woman just before and during the Civil War. Early entries include a detailed description of a family trip from Amite, Louisiana, to visit relatives in New Hampshire. Entries during the war describe reactions to war news; life in the vicinity of Monroe, Oakland, and Homer, Louisiana, including comments on freedmen and federal troops; and some activities of Sarah's father, William Morrill Wadley, who managed the Vicksburg, Shreveport and Texas Railroad and served as Confederate superintendent of railroads. See Documenting the American South (DocSouth.unc.edu), a digital publishing initiative of the University Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Tuesday, Dec. 25th / 1860.
It is Christmas day, the great festival of the year, but this Christmas is not very merry to us, nor, I dare say, to many others in This country.
Dr. Lord said last Sunday that we ought to let the great wave of political troubles roll by for a while, and try and forget the exigencies of the times during Christmas, the anniversary of that day in which rose the sun of Righteousness; but this is very hard to do. We can have no tangible expressions of merry making, which though far less dignified than a deep Christian rejoicing goes very far towards promoting universal thankfulness and love in the household...
Uncle Moses and Aunt Jane are coming to dine with us today... We spent Christmas day very quietly, our only extra amusement was going to the Christmas tree at the Church.
We had a very pleasant Christmas; the day after Christmas day, Miss Mary and I fixed up a little pine tree as a Christmas tree, we had no costly gifts, but a few sugar plums in lace bags, and some home made Cornucopias with two or three little wax candles made the tree very attractive to the children. Father had a few fire works too which he had forgot to bring home Christmas eve, and we were delighted looking at them.
The negroes had a supper and dance up at the place and we all walked up to see them, Father was very much pleased to see them dance, and as their house was small and smoky so that we could not look on with any pleasure, Father had our long room cleared out and had them go in there and dance. We stayed looking at them till nine o'clock, and then walked home again.
Friday night I had a most pleasant surprise. Father came home and said that Eldridge had a paper box on the waggon--marked for me... When it was opened there lay a very pretty chair made of velvet, ornamented with ribbon and straw and the seat of which, being raised, showed a space nicely lined with flannel, it was a fancy jewelry box from Miss Valeria, she had it made for a Christmas present...Father left for New Orleans yesterday, we expect him back Saturday night.
Dec. 25th/ 1862
Christmas night, it has been a sad Christmas day to us Father was not here, we received a dispatch Tuesday night saying that he must return to Richmond before coming home, it was a great disappointment, since we had at least hoped that he would arrive Christmas eve. Today has seemed just like Sunday, while at dinner we received some papers one of which contained a list of the wounded...
The negroes are busy barbecueing and cooking for their party tonight, they may have to start away before day, but we shall let enjoy themselves while they can.
We have been watching the negroes dancing for the last two hours, Mother had the partition taken down in our old house so that they have quite a long ball room, we can sit on the piazza and look into it. I hear now the sounds of fiddle, tambourine and "bones" mingled with the shuffling and pounding of feet. Mr. Axley is fiddling for them, they are having a merry time, thoughtless creatures, they think not of the morrow. I am sad, very sad, tonight, last Christmas Father watched their dancing with us; where is he now? where shall we all be next Christmas...
Christmas week, 1863
There is to be a ball in Monroe Christmas eve, I have received an invitation and yesterday Mrs. McGuire sent to urge me to go with her, but I am far from wishing to participate in such gaiety. I shall go to Mrs. DeLary's concert because Miss Mary is to play and sing, otherwise I should not think of it. It is to be on next Monday night...
Wednesday, Dec. 30th. 1863...The day before Christmas was busy cooking all day, and this made us feel a little like Christmas was coming. Father and Miss Mary went into town that day and brought out some candy and pecans with which we filled the children's stockings, they woke up before day in the morning and were highly delighted...we had our stockings hung up and candy in them, and Miss Mary scratched the chimney bask in imitation of Santa Claus' carriage wheel tracks, Georgie came in our room in the morning and related with a wondering air how he could see the marks of Santa Claus feet on Mother's room chimney, we then showed him ours and he was strengthened in his belief.
After they were dressed, the children ran out to distribute candy among the little negroes and before breakfast all had disappeared. When our late breakfast was over, we made egg nogg for the negroes, who gathered round the back door highly delighted, there were many of them, for most of the railroad negroes were here. When they had all had a glass round, Mother filled her great punch bowl again for the "white folks..." We had singing and playing for an hour or more in the evening, and then closed the day with a few pages from Homer's Iliad...
Altogether, our Christmas day was better than the last, principally because Father was here, but yet it was by no means merry, as it could not be now when our prospects are so uncertain and gloomy.
All Christmas day I kept saying over and over "it is Christmas" to keep myself in mind of it. It was very much like any other Sunday, only sometimes we would hear a "Merry Christmas," which sounded hollow, like the echo of past times; we had an egg nogg in the morning but drank it with only an occasional attempt at hilarity...we had a very fine dinner...In the evening we had some ice cream which the children malted at the fire, and so the day passed. I had an hour of pleasure when I read the Christmas service and beautiful Psalms and lessons and again in the evening when Miss May and I contemplated the glories of the setting sun.