Ella Dillard Bates, originally of Alabama, kept this diary from January to April 1862 while residing in the "upper country" of Georgia, likely in Bartow County. She wrote of domestic affairs, tending to her infant son, Horace, relationships with neighbors, gardening, her husband's travel and visits to plantations, and interactions with "servants," likely enslaved men and women. Occasional references to Civil War events also appear in the volume, as well as brief references to conflict with the likely enslaved "servants."
Ella Dillard Bates kept this diary from January to April 1862 while residing in the "upper country" of Georgia, likely in Bartow County. She wrote of domestic affairs, tending to her infant son, Horace, relationships with neighbors, gardening, her husband's travel and visits to plantations, and interactions with the household "servants," likely enslaved men and women. Occasional references to Civil War events also appear in the volume, as well as brief references to conflict with the likely enslaved "servants."
Ella's descriptions of Gustavus Bates' activities indicate that he was travelling to tend to business affairs, seemingly related to agriculture. He travelled to Allatoona, Acworth, Cartersville, Marietta, Covington, Cassville, Carsonville, and Atlanta and Ella noted instances when he dealt with corn and arranged for the slaughter and sale of hogs. At times, she wrote of him going to or returning from unnamed plantations, but his role at those sites is unclear. On several occasions, she referred to travelers staying with the family, including an African American man on his way to North Carolina (March 18).
Ella wrote of her infant son's health and development, daily activities, clothing, and relationship with his father. Several times she mentioned short trips taken with him, as well as the desire to get his ambrotype taken, "if he can sit still long enough." Entries also provide insight into the domestic work Ella Bates performed, including references to selling her butter, hardening lard, collecting broom straw, mending clothing, dealing with chickens, geese, and turkeys, gardening, and trading goods with neighbors. Ella also noted social visits and letters from family members, providing a glimpse into the work she performed tending to relationships and the family's social circle.
While Ella referred to those performing labor around her as "servants," it is likely that many if not all of these individuals were enslaved. Several people feature prominently, including Toney, of whom Ella wrote, "I think it is almost impossible for me to keep house without him" (January 3). Toney also appears throughout the volume performing various jobs like running errands or making deliveries, fixing Ella's garden, tending to candle molds, and other tasks. Likewise, a man named Ellick appears several times, running errands, salting meat, working with mules, and he appears to have had carpentry skills. Other named individuals who may have been enslaved workers appear only sparingly, performing various jobs.
Ella's diary provides glimpses into female domestic labor she oversaw. While unclear whether the women were enslaved, it is likely that they were. Mary and Francis labored in the household, cooking, cleaning, washing and tending to clothes, and other various tasks like sewing corn sacks and handling geese. Francis appears to have been pregnant, as Ella referred to her impending confinement (February 21). They may have also assisted in tending to Horace, as on April 7 Ella noted Mary falling with him. There are indications that a larger enslaved population was laboring for the family, including references to Francis "boil[ing] the hog feet & ears for the negroes" (January 8) and stopping with Gustavus to "see the servants plough" a field (April 11).
At times, the entries indicate conflict or resistance, including on January 13 when she wrote, "Some of the negroes have been trying to break in my hen house. I took Joe this evening and made him fix it up nicely." On January 17, she referred to May, a likely enslaved African American woman, as "impudent" and noted that upon being slapped "she was mad enough to knock me down." That same day she commented on Toney wanting to keep his clothes in the house, "if I do he will keep my dining room dirty all the time." Other events pertain to Mary who labored in the house, including her breaking a cup (January 20) and a workbox, which Ella accused her of doing to "steal my needles and thread" (February 17). Entries for February 21 and 22 refer to a man named Henry running away from a Mr. Cooper, and Ella commented about African American children "not let[ting] me raise many chickens this year" (March 28).
The diary includes passages that seem to imply conflict between Ella and a woman named Emma from Allatoona, who may have come to the Bates household with three young children (February 22). While unclear if Emma was enslaved, she may have been, as Ella wrote that "she is a splendid servant about a house" (February 24). Several days after the arrival, tension arose between Ella, Emma, and Gustavus, when Ella remarked, "Mr. Bates got so mad with me last night about Emma. He says he will never forget or forgive me for it as long as he lives" (February 27). On March 1, Ella acknowledged feeling jealous "about something I heard today it makes me sick," and on March 3, Ella stated her pleasure that Emma would be leaving; she departed on March 9, 1862.
Ella Bates occasionally referred to wartime events, including the fall of Nashville (February 26), Union forces taking "the engine from Big Shanty" (April 12 and 13), soldiers taking the railroad to Corinth (April 14), and anxieties about her husband enlisting in the Confederate Army (February 18, February 28, March 2, April 3, April 14). She also documented people in the household who ventured out to acquire newspapers, which may have been to follow wartime news among other purposes.
One page at the end of the volume appears to be a list of household tasks to accomplish, including those related to gardening, chickens, geese, and clothing. Several poems are also included at the end of the volume, including one entitled "Stone Mountain."
The inscriptions "Tennie Bates" and "T.M.B. Waverly Tenn" appear on the front pastedown and flyleaf, indicating the volume was in the possession of Tennessee Mae Bates, Ella Bates' granddaughter. Other names inscribed in the volume include "Aleck McClaren, Memphis Tennessee," "Miss Jennie Tidwill," and "G. H. Bates - 1861" suggesting Gustavus may have given the volume as a gift to Ella.