‘Nothing from the Boston Courier’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
Mrs. Gray’s diary entry[1] for Easter Sunday 1865 continues.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, 16 April 1865: Vice President Johnson[2] was sworn into office yester’y morning in place of our beloved President Lincoln. He is said to be a man of great natural ability but very uneducated. Has been very influential among the loyalists of Tennessee & the West. He was so disgracefully drunk on the 4th of March as to mortify and alarm us all very much. But we hear since that that was an accident – he is habitually a thoroughly temperate man, and was overcome then by what would have affected most men not at all, owing to his being so entirely unaccustomed to the use of stimulants. If he will but keep good advisers about him! And we will hope so. It is said his wife taught him to read and write after their marriage!

President Lincoln is to be buried on Thursday next – until then all public buildings and many private dwellings will be hung with mourning draperies & all flags at half-mast – alas, alas! and only last Monday night the whole city was lighted up with illuminations & gas for [Robert E.] Lee’s surrender. Our neighbour Dr. Brown[3] refused to light up that night – he is a Copperhead of Hilliard’s school – but not an intrusive one generally.

He slunk off thoroughly frightened, expecting to be mobbed – and had his house lighted up before dark from cellar to attic!

His was the only dark house in our street, and was noticed with marked disapprobation – he heartily regrets it now and would be yet more mortified if he heard all we have heard about him on the subject. As to Hilliard[4] who began a speech that glorious day, to a meeting of rejoicing citizens, with “I honour Gen. Lee’s magnanimity,” he was hissed down & hooted out of the crowd with cries of “We want nothing from the Boston Courier to-day.” He slunk off thoroughly frightened, expecting to be mobbed – and had his house lighted up before dark from cellar to attic!

Lee’s magnanimity indeed!! He had to surrender or be cut to pieces – he was thoroughly “cornered,” out-generalled & defeated, and surrendered because he could not help himself! As to the magnanimity of any man who has exercised the power of absolute Dictator at the South and yet who never uttered a remonstrance against the barbarous treatment of our prisoners. He had but to say the word and our poor starving men would have been treated like human beings – he did not say that word – and he and Davis[5] are answerable to God and man for the slow, intentional murder of 50,000 of our men! While we were feeding, clothing, & housing their men in more comfort than many of them had ever known in their best days at home!

God may forgive Davis & Lee, and man may not spurn them, nor earth refuse them standing room, but in law, justice, and righteous retribution for unpardonable crimes against humanity those two men ought to die the most ignominious death that civilization can award to traitors & felons!!

Continued here.


[1] Hedwiga Regina Shober (1818–1885) was married to Dr. Francis Henry Gray 1844–80. Entry from the Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections.

[2] Andrew Johnson (1808–1875), President of the United States 1865–69, married Eliza McCardle in 1827.

[3] Dr. Buckminster Brown (1819–1891) of 59 Bowdoin Street.

[4] George Stillman Hillard (1808–1879), at one time associate editor of the Boston Courier.

[5] Jefferson Davis (1808–1889), President of the Confederate States 1862–65.

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward was the founding editor at Vita Brevis; he served as NEHGS Editor-in-Chief 2013-2022. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

7 thoughts on “‘Nothing from the Boston Courier’

  1. The passion of the moment often tells more truth than well thought-over politesse. Mrs. Gray so rarely lets herself go like this–at least in these published excerpts–that it is all the more revealing of herself and her times. An admirable woman.

  2. I just LOVE these messages from Mrs. Gray. I have saved all of them. I read them over and over. Being from Boston originally and now living in the South, I can hear her voice in my head. Is there a book that has been published with all of her diary in it? I would love to have it if so.

  3. Thanks, Maria, Jeff, Virginia, Martha, and Linda! I am hoping to publish an annotated edition of the Civil War diary (1860-65), although the diary as a whole fills 25 volumes and continues until weeks before Mrs. Gray’s death in 1885.

    1. That will be of great interest as well as a fascinating accompaniment to Mary Boykin Chesnut’s diary. May I ask the location of the 25 vols? Have they been digitized? They are a treasure and so many have been riveted by your excerpts.

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