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In Their Own Words

June 15, 1865

Journal Entry on Laughing Amidst Despair

On this day, Eliza Frances Andrews put away her despair over the loss of the Civil War and had some fun:

“June 15, Thursday. This has been a day of jokes - as crazy almost as if it were the first of April… . After we had each told everything we could think of to raise a laugh against the other, he put on a serious face, and began to hint, in a very mysterious way, that he thought this house was a dangerous place. ‘There are ghosts in it,’ he said, and then, to our utter amazement, went on to tell, as if he were relating a genuine ghost story, about Capt. Goldthwaite’s encounter with Cousin Liza the other morning, as he was coming out of his room to take the early train. He evidently didn’t know, when he started, who the real ghost was … and he would find out by telling the story at the dinner table… .We thought this would be a good joke, and it turned out even better than we expected, when Cousin Liza walked right into the trap… .Then, when she had betrayed herself as completely as she could, the captain gravely told his ghost story. But instead of laughing with the rest of us, she got on her high horse and gave him a piece of her mind that silenced him for that time as a story-teller. Everybody wanted to laugh, and everybody was afraid to speak, so we all looked down at our plates and ate as hard as we could, in dead silence. I expected every minute to hear somebody break out in a tell-tale snicker, but we held in till dinner was over. Father never allows anybody to make fun of cousin, if he can help it, and he called Metta and me to him when we got up from the table and gave us such a raking over that we ran upstairs and buried our heads in the pillows so that we could laugh as much as we pleased without being heard… . Later in the afternoon, when we came downstairs, Garnett proposed that we should all go out in the grove and laugh as loud as we chose. Henry and Cora joined us, and we went to the seat under the big poplar, and when he had arranged us all in a row, Capt. Hudson (the original story-teller) gave the word of command: ‘Attention! Make ready! Laugh!’ threw up his cap and shouted like a schoolboy. I don’t know what makes people so foolish, but I laughed as I don’t believe I ever did before in my life, and all about nothing too. We all whooped and shouted like crazy children… .”

Source: Eliza Frances Andrews, The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, 1864-1865 (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1908), pp. 300-302.