Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30, 1862


April 30, 1862:  Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, in command of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia (or the army that will soon be re-named such), which has mostly relocated down to the James Peninsula, writes to Gen. Lee this surprisingly frank and pessimistic (and yet realistic) assessment of his ability to stop McClellan’s advance toward Richmond:


HEADQUARTERS, Lee's House, April 30, 1862.
General R. E. LEE:
    GENERAL: We are engaged in a species of warfare at which we can never win.
    It is plain that General McClellan will adhere to the system adopted by him last summer, and depend for success upon artillery and engineering. We can compete with him in neither.
We must therefore change our course, take the offensive, collect all the troops we have in the East and cross the Potomac with them, while Beauregard, with all we have in the West, invades Ohio.
    Our troops have always wished for the offensive, and so does the country. Please submit this suggestion to the President. We can have no success while McClellan is allowed, as he is by our defensive, to choose his mode of warfare.
    Most respectfully, your obedient servant,

    J. E. JOHNSTON,
    General.

April 29, 1862


April 29, 1862:  Once again, at New Orleans, Farragut sends ashore 250 Marines and two howitzers to enforce public order, and the United States flag is raised over the public buildings of the city. 


---The Richmond Daily Dispatch publishes this hopeful editorial, trying to put a positive spin on the Union occupation of New Orleans, and suggesting even possible guerilla warfare, should the armies of the South be defeated in the future:


The fearful state of suspense in which this city existed for two or three days, has at last ended. New Orleans is in the possession of the enemy. It was evacuated by Gen. Lovell, who has removed his forces to Camp Moore, on the Jackson railroad.

This is a heavy blow; it is useless to deny it. But we were anticipating it, and the public mind had already become prepared for it, before the truth had been fully ascertained. It is a heavy blow, but it is very far from being a fatal blow. We may expect to hear of disasters wherever the enemy's gunboats can be brought to bear, on all the points still in our possession. Give him all of them — every one--and still he is as far from his object as he was this time last year. Hatteras fell, Hilton Head fall, Roanoke Island fell, Donelson fell, New Orleans has fallen. But our great armies are still in the field. They have not fallen — they have not been worsted — they have always beaten the enemy, wherever they have encountered him. When they shall have been beaten and dispersed, so that they can never rally again, then it may be time to feel gloomy about our prospects. Until that time shall have arrived, it were unmanly to despond, far less to think of abandoning the cause. Even then the last resource of a brave nation, resolved not to be enslaved, remains to us. We can even then, as other nations have done before us, resolve ourselves into a guerilla force, composed of the whole country, and fight the battle for life or death, throughout a million of square miles. But that time is not come.


---A Union soldier near Fredericksburg writes about the “contrabands” crossing Union lines:

“Contrabands” still come pouring in upon our camps, very many of them seeking and finding employment, and profession uniformly the utmost anxiety to escape from their impatiently-borne thraldom. That strong attachment to “Massa” and “Misses”, which, I often heard it said at the North, would lead them to cling to their Southern homes and refuse freedom even if it were offered, I havn’t yet happened to see,– With one voice they breathe longings for a Northern home, eager to turn their backs upon their masters forever, if they can only carry their families with them. It is impossible to look upon these poor people, an abject, meek…as they seem, so anxious to emerge from their condition of involuntary servitude, into an atmosphere where they can breathe as freely as the white man does, without feeling one’s sympathies strongly enlisted. One finds the question rising involuntarily, Is not the negro a man? Warmed with the same sun, hurt with the same weapons, having the same feelings, affections, aspirations that the white man has? Why then should he be a slave to his fellow man?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 25, 1862

April 25, 1862: New Orleans, Louisiana - During the night of the 24th, crowds run wild in the streets as property is burned and looted. Orders for anything useful to the Yankees to put to the torch (food, arms, ships–and 30,000 bales of cotton, a fortune in cotton) quickly turns into a mass melee. George Washington Cable, age 13 at the time, records:

I shall not try to describe the day the alarm-bells told us the city was in danger and called every man to his mustering-point. The children poured out from the school-gates and ran crying to their homes, meeting their sobbing mothers at their thresholds. The men fell into ranks. I was left entirely alone in charge of the store in which I was employed. Late in the afternoon, receiving orders to close it, I did so, and went home. But I did not stay. I went to the river-side. There until far into the night I saw hundreds of drays carrying cotton out of the presses and yards to the wharves, where it was fired. . . .

Whoever could go was going. The great mass, that had no place to go to or means to go with, was beside itself. "Betrayed ! betrayed !" it cried, and ran in throngs from street to street, seeking some vent, some victim for its wrath. . . . The junior of the firm was within. I called him to look toward the river. The masts of the cutter Washington were slowly tipping, declining, sinking---down she went. The gun-boat moored next to her, began to smoke all over and then to blaze. My employers lifted up their heels and left the city---left their goods and their affairs in the hands of one mere lad (no stranger would have thought I had reached fourteen) and one big German porter. I closed the doors, sent the porter to his place in the Foreign Legion, and ran to the levee to see the sights.

What a gathering! The riff-raff of the wharves, the town, the gutters. Such women---such wrecks of women! And all the juvenile rag-tag. The lower steamboat landing, well covered with sugar, rice, and molasses, was being rifled. The men smashed; the women scooped up the smashings. The river was overflowing the top of the levee. A rain-storm began to threaten. "Are the Yankee ships in sight?" . . . Ah, me! I see them now as they come slowly round Slaughterhouse Point into full view, silent, grim, and terrible; black with men, heavy with deadly portent; the long-banished Stars and Stripes flying against the frowning sky. . . .


At about 1:00 PM, the U.S. Navy squadron arrives at the port waterfront, as the hulk of the CSS Mississippi, burning, drifts on the rolling river:

U.S.N. Mortar Vessel

The crowds on the levee howled and screamed with rage. The swarming decks answered never a word; but one old tar on the Hartford, standing with lanyard in hand beside a great pivot-gun, so plain to view that you could see him smile, silently patted its big black breech and blandly grinned.

And now the rain came down in sheets. About 1 or 2 o'clock in the afternoon (as I remember), I being again in the store with but one door ajar, came a roar of shoutings and imprecations and crowding feet down Common street. "Hurrah for Jeff Davis! Hurrah for Jeff Davis! Shoot them! Kill them! Hang them! " I locked the door on the outside, and ran to the front of the mob, bawling with the rest, " Hurrah for Jeff Davis! " About every third man there had a weapon out. Two officers of the United States navy were walking abreast, unguarded and alone, looking not to right or left, never frowning, never flinching, while the mob screamed in their ears, shook cocked pistols in their faces, cursed and crowded, and gnashed upon them. So through the gates of death those two men walked to the City Hall to demand the town's surrender. It was one of the bravest deeds I ever saw done.

Mayor Monroe of the city refuses to surrender the town, and the mob outside are threatening to lynch the two USN officers. Gen. Mansfield Lovell, in command of the Confederate Army there, also refuses to surrender the city, and he immediately takes his leave and marches his 4,000 troops out of the city. The two naval officers are smuggled out the back of city hall. Soon, a landing party of sailors and Marines take possession of the city. The Confederate flag and the Louisiana state flag are lowered and replaced by the Stars and Stripes.

The Federal fleet at New Orleans

---Fort Macon, North Carolina, near the port city of Beaufort, surrenders to troops under Gen. Burnside and naval forces under Flag Officer Goldsborough, after a long siege.

—The Richmond Daily Dispatch publishes this patriotic editorial about the Confederate government’s practice of impressing (confiscating) privately owned horses for use by the Army:
Impressment of horses.
–The people of Lynchburg are groaning over the fact that the agents of the Government have been twice in that region impressing and buying up all the serviceable horses to be found.–Richmond has never been "afflicted" in this way, and our mountain neighbors are unable to perceive the justice of the reason for the immunity hitherto granted her. They are right, and we trust that the next haul will be made from the surplus stock of horses in this region. We learn that some public back owners do not now permit their horses to be used, because Gen. Winder [provost marshal] has intimated that they shall conform in their charges to the rates prescribed by the city ordinances. This is not the time for horses or any other animals to be standing idle, therefore let the Government take not only them, but the carriage and private riding horses, if they can be made to contribute to the welfare of the Republic.

—Kate Cumming, Confederate nurse at Corinth, records this shocked observation of wartime morals and romance:


This morning, while at breakfast, I was not a little astonished to hear a very pretty widow say that she had never enjoyed herself so much as she had since she had been here; that, when she left home, she was told that she must try to catch a beau—and she had succeeded. The doctors, I thought, looked amazed, that any woman, at such a time, and in such a place, should be guilty of such heartlessness. Enjoyed herself! when it was impossible to look one way or the other without seeing the most soul-harrowing scenes that it has ever been the lot of mortals to witness; and at that moment the groans of the suffering and dying were entering the room. I looked at the sentinels who were at the door; they, I thought, looked as shocked as we. I trust that such women are very rare.

April 24, 1862



April 24, 1862:   Coastal Theater: New Orleans Campaign –BATTLE OF FT JACKSON AND FT ST PHILIP -After 2 PM, Farragut’s squadron starts upstream with 12 wooden warships, supported by the continued fire of Porter’s mortar boats. William C. Holton of the flagship Hartford records: “The forts, only three quarters of a mile apart, gave our ships shot and shell on both sides at once, while our ships sent back grape, canister, shrapnel, and shells, besides using our howitzers from our tops, where they had been mounted. On reaching the forts we were assailed by twenty of the enemy’s gunboats and rams, but we made short work of them, sinking some, and burning nearly all of them.” The Confederate mosquito fleet sorties to engage the Union ships as they sail upriver, between the forts. The CSS Louisiana, fixed at her moorings, engages the Federals with her guns. The CSS Manassasengages several Union vessels, and even rams the Hartford, without effect. A Rebel tug rams a fire raft up against the Hartford, burning the mizzen rigging before the Federals are able to stop the flames and shove the raft off. After one hour and twenty minutes, the Hartford and most of the river squadron are past the forts, beyond the range of their guns. Most have taken considerable damage. The CSS Manassas follows them, and the USS Mississippi turns about, and fires three close broadsides into the ironclad, whose thin armor does not protect her, and the Manassas drives herself aground and is abandoned by her crew. The Itasca is disabled by a shot through her boilers, and two Union vessels have drifted downstream because it is too close to dawn. The USS Varuna, after having sunk several Rebel ships, sustains severe damage and sinks after driving aground, with some of her crew escaping. By the end of the day, the fleet anchors at English Turn, downstream from the city of New Orleans. The two forts are now isolated, cut off from their lines of communication and supply. Gen. Benjamin Butler, commander of the 6,000 Federal troops on board transports, recommends landing the Army to attack the forts. Farragut disagrees.
Farragut's Squadron runs by the forts.
The evening before, Gen. Johnson Duncan, commander of the forts, had issued this dispatch:
A heavy continued bombardment was kept up all night and is still progressing. There have been no further casualties except two men slightly wounded. God is certainly protecting us. We are still cheerful, and have an abiding confidence in our ultimate success.–We are making repairs as best we can. Our best guns are still in working order. Most of them have been disabled at times. The health of the troops continues good. Twenty-five thousand 13 inch shells have been fired by the enemy, thousands of which fell in the fort. They must soon exhaust themselves.–If not, we can stand as long as they can.
Brig. Gen. J. K. Duncan,
Comd’g Fort Jackson.
---Fort Macon, North Carolina, near the port city of Beaufort, surrenders to troops under Gen. Burnside and naval forces under Flag Officer Goldsborough, after a long siege.

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23, 1862

April 23, 1862: Coastal Theater, New Orleans Campaign - Flag Officer David G. Farragut, commander of the Federal fleet on the Mississippi River gives the orders for the fleet to try steaming upriver past the guns of Ft. Jackson and Ft. St. Philip. The movement is to be tried at night, and the rush past the guns in the small hours of the 24th, beginning at 2:00 AM. Dixon’s mortar schooners have kept up a steady bombardment of the forts for over six days now, and the Confederate defenders are suffering. Gen. Johnson Duncan, in command of the forts (over 1400 men and 130 cannon), feared he would have to surrender soon. The C.S. Navy, the night before, towed the CSS Louisiana down to the forts. The ironclad had completed her armor and guns, but her engines were still unworkable, so she was towed and moored to the riverbank by Ft. St. Philip, to be used as a floating battery. The CSS Mississippi, still at her moorings at New Orleans, had not yet had her armor plating installed, and was in condition to fight. But at the forts was a mobile but motley collection of vessels, led by the small but effective ironclad ram, CSS Manassas.
Map showing the two forts and locations of the Confederate flotilla and the Union fleet.

–Surgeon Alfred L. Castleman, of the Army of the Potomac on the James Peninsula, near Yorktown, writes in his journal:
23rd.—A week ago to-day was the battle at Lee’s Mill, and though there has been daily fighting ever since, and calls to arms almost every night, sometimes two or three times a night, there has been no battle worthy of the name. The artillery have been firing at long range, with occasional infantry firing.. . . .
If we have another battle here, it will be a desperate one. No stronger position could have been selected by the enemy, and they are well fortified. Jeff. Davis is here, and in the field. Magruder is here, and they are being rapidly reinforced. I do not like this way of marching up to an enemy, and then sitting down quietly and waiting for him to get ready before we attack him. ‘Tis not the Napoleonic style. But there may be good reasons for it which I do not comprehend. I am not a military man, and shall be careful how I condemn the plans of my superiors; but I do not like that style of fighting. Would it not be singular if Yorktown should decide the fate of this revolution, as it did that of "our revolution?"
Siege of Yorktown, Virginia

—Oliver Willcox Norton, a Union soldier with the 83rd Pennsylvania Vol. Inf. Regiment in the Army of the Potomac, writes home from his position outside of the Rebel fortifications at Yorktown, which are blocking McClellan’s advance up the James Peninsula. Norton offers this light-hearted anecdote of picket duty near the siege gun positions:
As long ago as 1781 Yorktown was surrendered, and here is the very place it was done. Just back of me is a long bank of earth now overgrown with trees, a breastwork thrown up by Washington’s men, and, if you could creep with me so as to just look over the top of it, and be out of range of secesh bullets, we could see more. Away across a level field three-quarters of a mile off, just in the edge of a wood, you might see a yellow line of earth. That is a rebel fort. Farther to the right is another, and still farther another and a larger one. A few rods from me are two large siege guns, and a little way on the other side a battery of Parrott guns. Now for a little amusement—a heavy report at the rebel fort, a wreath of white smoke curls gracefully up from the yellow bank and a ten-inch shell comes hissing and screaming through the air directly toward our siege guns. The gunners jump aside and fall flat on the ground; the shell strikes a dozen rods behind them and harmlessly explodes. Up they spring, with "All right, boys." "Give ‘em two for that." They step to their loaded guns, step back a pace, pull a string, and, Boom! Boom! two reports that make the earth tremble and two shells go screaming back in reply to the rebel missile. They have kept up this cannonading ever since we came here on the 5th, and there is scarcely ten minutes in the day when we do not hear the report of cannon. We are getting used to it so we pay no more attention than to the birds singing, unless the firing is unusually sharp. They have tried several times to drive in our pickets, but they have not succeeded yet.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 22, 1862


April 22, 1862:  Stonewall Jackson, having moved to Swift Run Gap, has disappeared off the radar screen.  Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks, commander of the Union’s Army of the Shenandoah, informs Washington that Jackson has disappeared.  Banks makes plans to advance farther up the valley, and sends a force toward Harrisonburg.


---A Special Committee of the U.S. Senate issues a resolution declaring Sen. Starke of Oregon to be disloyal to the United States and in sympathy for the Southern cause.


---Gen. Halleck’s large combined army begins its laborious advance toward Corinth, today.

Friday, April 20, 2012

April 20, 1862

April 20, 1862: Just downstream from Fort Jackson, on the Mississippi River, the Union fleet sits, while Porter’s mortar boats continue to shell the forts. Flag Officer Farragut decides that his fleet will run by the forts, instead of bomb them out. In accordance with this plan, the USS Pinola and USS Itasca, gunboats, steam upriver to cut the river "boom" the Rebels have made by linking old schooner hulls together with chains. After some trouble, and much pestering cannon fire from the forts, the boat crews are able to slip the chain off one hull and accidentally tear out the post of another while freeing one of the ships from running aground. A gap is now clear in the barrier, and all there is to oppose the Federal fleet in steaming up to New Orleans is two forts full of heavy guns and a motley river flotilla that includes the CSS Louisiana and the CSS Manassas, armored rams.

—David L. Day, a soldier in the 25th Massachusetts Infantry Reg., still stationed in Newbern, North Carolina, records his impressions and observations about the poor white trash in the region:

Poor White Trash.
Among the white people about here, are very few who would be ranked among the first or even second class. Nearly all of them are what is called the poor white trash or clay-eaters. I am told they actually do eat clay, a habit they contract like any other bad habit. Now I cannot vouch for the truth of this, never having seen them eating it, but some of them look as though that was about all they had to eat. They are an utterly ignorant set, scarcely able to make themselves intelligible, and in many ways they are below the negroes in intelligence and manner of living, but perhaps they are not wholly to blame for it, the same principle that will oppress a black man, will a white one. They are entirely cut off from the means of acquiring land or an education, even though they wished to. Public schools are unknown here and land can only be purchased by the plantation. That leaves them in rather a bad fix; poor, shiftless and ignorant. Their highest ambition is to hunt, fish, drink whiskey and toady to their masters. You speak to one of them and he will look at you in a listless sort of way as though unable or undecided whether to answer or not. Ask one of them the distance across the river, and he will either say he don’t know, or "it is right smart." Ask one of them the distance to any place or house out in the country, and he will tell you it is "a right smart step," or "you go up yer a right smart step, and you will come to a creek," and from there it will be so many looks and a screech; meaning from the creek that number of angles in the road and as far beyond as the voice will reach. They do not seem to have any intelligent idea about anything, and in talking with the cusses, one scarcely knows whether to pity them or be amused.

Snuff Dipping.
The women here have a filthy habit of snuff chewing or dipping as they call it, and I am told it is practiced more or less by all classes of women. The manner of doing it is simple enough; they take a small stick or twig about two inches long, of a certain kind of bush, and chew one end of it until it becomes like a brush. This they dip into the snuff and then put it in their mouths. After chewing a while they remove the stick and expectorate about a gill, and repeat the operation. Many of the women among the clay-eaters chew plug tobacco and can squirt the juice through their teeth as far and as straight as the most accomplished chewer among the lords of creation.

---George Washington Cable, post-war novelist, reminisces about these days in New Orleans, when he was a young teen, after the blockade had stopped up trade on the Mississippi, yet before the Union Navy had captured the city:

There had come a great silence upon trade. Long ago the custom-warehouses had begun to show first a growing roominess, then emptiness, and then had remained shut, and the iron bolts and cross-bars of their doors were gray with cobwebs. One of them, in which I had earned my first wages as a self-supporting lad, had been turned into a sword-bayonet factory, and I had been turned out. For some time later the Levee had kept busy; but its stir and noise had gradually declined, faltered, turned into the commerce of war and the clatter of calkers and ship-carpenters, and faded out. Both receipts and orders from the interior country had shrunk and shrunk, and the brave, steady fellows, who at entry and shipping and cash and account desks could no longer keep a show of occupation, had laid down the pen, taken up the sword and musket, and followed after the earlier and more eager volunteers. . . . The blockade had closed in like a prison-gate: the lighter tow-boats, draped with tarpaulins, were huddled together under Slaughterhouse Pointd boilers and motionless machinery yielding to rust; . . . At length only the foundries, the dry-docks across the river, and the ship-yard in suburb Jefferson, where the great ram Mississippi was being too slowly built, were active, and the queen of Southern commerce, the city that had once believed it was to be the greatest in the world, was absolutely out of employment.

There was, true, some movement of the sugar and rice crops into the hands of merchants who had advanced the money to grow them; and the cottonpresses and cotton-yards were full of cotton, but there it all stuck; and when one counts in a feeble exchange of city for country supplies, there was nothing more. . . .

Gold and silver had long ago disappeared. Confederate money was the currency; and not merely was the price of food and raiment rising, but the value of the money was going down. The State, too, had a paper issue, and the city had another. Yet with all these there was first a famine of small change, and then a deluge of "shinplasters." Pah ! What a mess it was! The boss butchers and the keepers of drinking-houses actually took the lead in issuing "money." The current jokould pass the label of an olive-oil bottle, because it was greasy, smelt bad'and bore an autograph---Plagniol Frères, if I remember rightly. . . .

 
Decay had come in. In that warm, moist climate it is always hungry, and wherever it is allowed to feed, eats with a greed that is strange to see. With the wharves, always expensive and difficult to maintain, it made havoc. The occasional idle, weather-stained ship moored beside them, and resting on the water almost as light and void as an empty peascod, could hardly find a place to fasten to. The streets fell into sad neglect, but the litter of commerce was not in them, and some of their round-stone pavements after a shower would have the melancholy cleanness of weather-bleached bones. How quiet and lonely the harbor grew! The big dry-docks against the farther shore were all empty. Now and then a tug fussed about, With the yellow river all to itself; and one or two steamboats came and went each day, but they moved drowsily. . . .

But the public mind was at a transparent heat. Everybody wanted to know of everybody else, "Why don't you go to the front?" Even the gentle maidens demanded tartly, one of another, why their brothers or lovers had not gone long ago, though, in truth, the laggards were few indeed. The very children knew--even we, the uninformed, the lads and women, knew the enemy was closing down upon us.

But there was little laughter. Food was dear; the destitute poor were multiplying terribly; the market men and women, mainly Germans, Gascon-French, and Sicilians, had lately refused to take the shinplaster currency, and the city authority had forced them to accept it. There was little to laugh at. The Mississippi was gnawing its levees and threatening to plunge in upon us. The city was believed to be full of spies.
 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

April 19, 1862

April 19, 1862: Gen. Beauregard has gathered more troops and concentrated them at Corinth, Mississippi, expecting the victorious Federals to come down the road and capture this most vital of railroad junctions. Including the 14,000 troops that Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn has brought from Arkansas, the Southern force at Corinth numbers close to 50,000. Meanwhile, Gen. Henry W. Halleck arrives at Pittsburg Landing from St. Louis to personally take command of the combined field armies of Grant, Buell, and Pope, with the intention of mounted a push toward Corinth.

—In the Shenandoah Valley, Jackson is at Harrisonburg and is mindful of the approach of Gen. Banks’ Federal army several miles north at New Market. Jackson begins his march southeast, toward the narrow Luray Valley, squeezed between Massanutten Mountain and the Blue Ridge. He sends cavalry to burn bridges in order to prevent the Yankees from following.

—Gen. James Shields of the Union Army, who had defeated Jackson at Kernstown a month earlier, send this ebullient and overconfident report to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, by way of stumping for his own promotion and advancement to higher command:


WOODSTOCK, VA., April 20, 1862.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War, Washington:


Jackson is flying from this department. I assisted in conducting the movement against him the other day when he was driven from Mount Jackson and New Market, and saw that the moment he abandoned Rude's Hill, which is by far the strongest position in the Shenandoah Valley, he gave the whole valley up for lost. . . . I would respectfully suggest that my division, Blenker's division, and Abercrombie's and Geary's commands be united and consolidated as speedily as possible, to force their way toward Richmond. This movement, if followed up by General Sumner's command and the rest of the disposable troops on the Potomac, will relieve General McClellan, and contribute to the destruction of the rebel army and the capture of the rebel capital. I am ready to conduct this movement if you can get the Senate to pass at once upon my nomination, but confirmed or not by that body I am ready to lead or follow, whichever you may deem most advisable, and in acting thus will do everything in my power to vindicate your kindness and partiality for me and the generous confidence which the President and yourself have been pleased to place in me since I entered the service.

There are no troops needed at present in the Shenandoah Valley but those which are necessary to garrison the different posts. Williams' division is ample for this. I venture to make these suggestions knowing with what indulgence they will be received, whether they may strike you as practicable or not. If they should impress you favorably there is not a moment to lose. A rapid movement of this kind on the flank of the rebel army may help materially to hasten the defeat of that army and the overthrow of the rebel Government.

I have the honor to be, with sentiments of profound gratitude and respect, your obedient servant,

JAS. SHIELDS,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.


—Kate Cumming, a nurse for the Army of Tennessee at Corinth, records this incident in her journal about the poor breeding of the Northern men:


I was shocked at what the men have told me about some dead Federals that they saw on the battle-field. They say that on the bands of their hats was written, "Hell or Corinth;" meaning, that they were determined to reach one of the places. Heaven help the poor wretches who could degrade themselves thus. I can not but pity them, and pray that God will turn the hearts of their living comrades. Can such a people expect to prosper? Are they really mad enough to think that they can conquer us—a people who shudder at such blasphemy; who, as a nation, have put our trust in the God of battles, and whose sense of the magnanimous would make us scorn to use such language?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 18, 1862

April 18, 1862: The shelling of Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip, on the lower Mississippi River, continues. Garrison quarters inside and outside of the fort catch fire, and the fort’s wooden citadel also burns out of control. Two Confederate shells have managed to hit two of Porter’s 21 mortar boats, but all are still in operation.

Map showing the location of the Union fleet and the two forts

—A careful game of chess has commenced across Virginia, as Stonewall Jackson and his 6,000 men marckh farther south to Harrisonburg in the Shenandoah Valley, in order to escape the encroaching Union forces which edge closer each day. Gen. Robert E. Lee, Pres. Davis’s military advisor (a de facto Chief of Staff) orders Jackson, Edward Johnson (with 3,000), and Richard Ewell (with 8,000) to keep in touch with one another, in order to respond to the Federals’ moves, as three separate Federal forces maneuver to trap the Rebels.


—Confederate War Department clerk John Beauchamp Jones writes in his diary of Pres. Davis’s imminent conversion to being a "Christian", and the continued influence of Judah P. Benjamin over Davis, feared by many factions in the government:



APRIL 18TH.—The President is thin and haggard ; and it has been whispered on the street that he will immediately be baptized and confirmed. I hope so, because it may place a great gulf between him and the descendant of those who crucified the Saviour. Nevertheless, some of his enemies allege that professions of Christianity have sometimes been the premeditated accompaniments of usurpations. It was so with Cromwell and with Richard III. Who does not remember the scene in Shakspeare, where Richard appears on the balcony, with prayer book in hand and a priest on either side?

—Martial law is declared throughout East Tennessee by the Confederate government, due to the recalcitrance of the Unionist majority there.


—Laura M. Towne, a Northern woman as a volunteer at Union-held Beaufort, South Carolina, offers a slice of life amongst the freed slaves of the Sea Islands:



At Mrs. John Forbes’, formerly Mr. Tripp’s house,— a modern built new building with expensive sea wall and other improvements. The wind blows freshly nearly all day and the tide rises over sandy, grassy flats on three sides of the house. These sands are full of fiddler-crab holes, and are at low tide the resort of negro children with tubs on their heads, crabbing. Soldiers, fishermen, and stragglers also come there, and we see not a little life. Boats frequently pass by, the negro rowers singing their refrains. One very pretty one this morning Moses told me was: —

"De bells done rang
An’ we goin’ home —
The bells in heaven are ringing."

Every now and then they shout and change the monotony by several very quick notes, or three or four long-drawn-out ones. One man sings a few words and the chorus breaks in, sometimes with a shout or interjecttional notes. Another song was, "We’re bound to go" — to heaven, I suppose. Another had a chorus of "Oh yes, ma’am," at every five or six bars.

Yesterday Caroline took us to her mother’s house. They were expecting us and were neatly dressed, and elegantly furnished indeed was their room. It had straw matting and a mahogany bureau, besides other things that said plainly "massa’s" house had contributed to the splendor, probably after the hasty retreat of "massa’s" family. The two women there were both of the colored aristocracy, had lived in the best families, never did any work to speak of, longed for the young ladies and young "mas’rs" back again, because April was the month they used to come to Beaufort and have such gay times. But if their masters were to come back they wanted to go North with us. . . . The walk through the town was so painful, not only from the desertion and desolation, but more than that from the crowd of soldiery lounging, idling, growing desperate for amusement and occupation, till they resort to brutality for excitement. I saw a soldier beating a horse so that I think it possible he killed him. Others galloped past us in a most reckless, unconscionable manner; others stared and looked unfriendly; others gave us a civil military salute and a look as if they saw something from home gladly. . . .

I have felt all along that nothing could excuse me for leaving home, and work undone there, but doing more and better work here. Nothing can make amends to my friends for all the anxiety I shall cause them, for the publicity of a not pleasant kind I shall bring upon them, but really doing here what no one else could do as well. So I have set myself a hard task. . . . I think a rather too cautious spirit prevails — antislavery is to be kept in the background for fear of exciting the animosity of the army, and we are only here by military sufferance. But we have the odium of out-and-out abolitionists, why not take the credit? Why not be so confident and freely daring as to secure respect! It will never be done by an apologetic, insinuating way of going to work.

I wish they would all say out loud quietly, respectfully, firmly, "We have come to do anti-slavery work, and we think it noble work and we mean to do it earnestly."

Instead of this, they do not even tell the slaves that they are free, and they lead them to suppose that if they do not do so and so, they may be returned to their masters. They keep in the background with the army the benevolence of their plans or the justice of them, and merely insist upon the immediate expediency, which I must say is not very apparent. If they do not take the higher ground, their cause and reputation are lost. But the work will go on. May I help it!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April 17, 1862

April 17, 1862: On this date, Commander David Dixon Porter, Commodore Farragut’s foster-brother, has finally assembled his mortar flotilla around a bend downriver from Forts Jackson and St. Philip. At Farragut’s order, they open fire, lofting shells into the two forts at frequent intervals. The Battle of New Orleans has begun.
Map of the Mississippi, featuring Ft. Jackson (on the left) and Fort St. Philip, just upstream on the right

—In the city of New Orleans, Gen. Mansfield Lovell, commander of the garrison there, has sworn all white males in the city to an Oath of Allegiance to the Confederacy, in anticipation of an impending Yankee attack. The Confederates know that Flag Officer David G. Farragut has collected a large fleet on the lower river, just downstream from Forts Jackson and St. Philip, which were sited to prevent an enemy incursion upriver from the Gulf. Lovell’s forces had been depleted in recent months by having sent 5,000 men to the defense of Ft. Donelson (and who are now prisoners) and another few brigades to join Johnston’s and Beauregard’s army for the action at Shiloh. Lovell’s naval forces have also been diminished, and what is available is divided amongst three entities: The Confederate State Navy, the State of Louisiana Navy, and the Army. The ironclads CSS Mississippi and CSS Louisiana are nearing completion, however, and promise to be powerful vessels when finished.

—Pres. Lincoln’s bill for compensated emancipation of all slaves in the District of Columbia becomes law effective today.

—George Templeton Strong writes in his journal:

Lincoln has signed the Emancipation Bill. Has any president, since this country came into being, done so weighty an act? The federal government is now clear of all connection with slaveholding. We are uneasy about McClellan. He is in a tight place, possibly in a trap, and the cabal against him in Washington may embarrass and weaken him. I am sorry to believe that McDowell is privy to it. He knows better, I am sure, but ambition tempts men fearfully.

—The Daily Journal, a newspaper in Wilmington, North Carolina, publishes this rather skeptical, dubious editorial in response to the Conscription Act just passed in Richmond:

These extreme stretches of power can find their justification only in that kind of overruling necessity which permits a man to take a human life in self-defence. However sufficient the justification, the necessity must always be a painful one, and the decision upon its existence, involves a deep responsibility. So in this case. We must look upon the action of the law as merely temporary. like martial law. We must look upon its character as not otherwise reconcilable with our ideas of civil freedom. But as we must submit for a time to many things, from a sense of duty and conviction of their necessity, so we will submit to this, when equally convinced.—We cannot be so with our present knowledge. We cannot say, until we hear more, that the further knowledge will not convince us.

—John Beauchamp Jones, a senior clerk in the Confederate War Department in Richmond, comments frankly in his journal about the martial law in place in Richmond:


APRIL 17TH.—To-day Congress passed an act providing for the termination of martial law within thirty days after the meeting of the next session. This was as far as they could venture; for, indeed, a majority seem to be intimidated at the glitter of bayonets in the streets, wielded by the authority of martial law. The press, too, has taken the alarm, and several of the publishers have confessed a fear of having their offices closed, if they dare to speak the sentiments struggling for utterance. It is, indeed, a reign of terror! Every Virginian, and other loyal citizens of the South—members of Congress and all—must now, before obtaining Gen. Winder’s [provost marshal] permission to leave the city for their homes, bow down before the aliens in the Provost Marshal’s office, and subscribe to an oath of allegiance, while a file of bayonets are pointed at his back!

—Kate Cumming, a young volunteer nurse at the Confederate Army hospital at Corinth, Mississippi, writes in her journal:


April 17.—I was going round as usual this morning, washing the faces of the men, and had got half through with one before I found out that he was dead. He was lying on the gallery by himself, and had died with no one near him. These are terrible things, and, what is more heart-rending, no one seems to mind them. I thought that my patients were all doing well. Mr. Wasson felt better, and knew that he would soon go home. I asked the surgeon who was attending him about his condition, and was much shocked when I learned that neither he nor Mr. Regan would live to see another day. This was a sad trial to me. I had seen many die, but none of them whom I had attended so closely as these two. I felt toward them as I do toward all the soldiers—as if they were my brothers. I tried to control my feelings before Mr. W., as he was so hopeful of getting well, but it was a hard task. Ho looked at me once and asked me what was the matter; was he going to die? I asked him if he was afraid. He replied no; but he was so young that he would like to live a little longer, and would like to see his father and mother once more. I did what I could to prepare him for the great change which was soon to come over him, but I could not muster courage to tell him that he was going to die.
 

Monday, April 16, 2012

April 16, 1862

April 16, 1862: In Corinth, Mississippi, Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard issues this proclamation of thanks and congratulations to his army:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE MISSISSIPPI, Corinth, Miss., April 16, 1862.

Soldiers of the Army of the Mississippi:
You have bravely fought the invaders of your soil for two days in his own position. Fought your superior in numbers, in arms, in all the appliances of war. Your success has been signal. His losses have been immense, outnumbering yours in all save the personal worth of the slain. You drove him from his camps to the shelter of his iron-clad gunboats, which alone saved him from complete disaster. You captured his artillery, more than 25 flags and standards, and took over 3,000 prisoners.
You have done your duty. Your commanding general thanks you. Your countrymen are proud of your deeds on the bloody field of Shiloh; confident in the ultimate results of your valor.
Soldiers, untoward events saved the enemy from annihilation. His insolent presence still pollutes your soil, his hostile flag still flaunts before you. There can be no peace so long as these things are.
Trusting that God is with us, as with our fathers, let us seek to be worthy of His favor, and resolve to be independent or perish in the struggle.
G. T. BEAUREGARD,
General, Commanding.

—Within the last week, Pres. Lincoln has signed into law several bills concerning slavery, including one that forbids Union soldiers to return escaped slaves to their owners. Today, he signs a law that frees all 3,000 slaves in the District of Columbia. The black population spontaneously celebrate their emancipation in the streets of the capital.

—Pres. Davis, in Richmond, signs into the law the Conscription Act, requiring all able-bodied males up through age 35 to serve for three years in the Confederate Army. This act is extremely unpopular throughout the South.

—Eastern Theater, Peninsula Campaign: Skirmish at Lee’s Mills - Gen. George McClellan orders Gen. William "Baldy" Smith to attack a section of the Rebel fortifications around Yorktown, to take gun emplacements that could prevent further Union siege activity. Smith sends four companies of Vermont troops across the mill pond, who easily drive off the scanty Rebel picket line. McClellan will not authorize Smith to do any more, and orders the Vermonters to be withdrawn. But Smith, on his own hook, sends across two whole regiments, the 4th and 6th Vermont. The 4th crosses the mill dam easily, but the 6th are fording upstream, and increasing Rebel fire, with the muddy ground, force them to retreat.

 

April 15, 1862

April 15, 1862: New Mexico Campaign: THE BATTLE OF PERALTA, New Mexico. As the Rebel army begins their retreat south to El Paso, Gen. Sibley has divided his army, with a column marching along each side of the Rio Grande. About 550 men, under Col. Tom Green, are moving down the east bank of the river, have stopped in the town of Peralta, waiting for assistance from Gen. Sibley on the west bank. The night before, Green’s supply train is lagging behind, when the last of the Confederate supplies are ambushed and taken by Canby’s Union cavalry. Green sends across the river to Gen. Sibley for reinforcements. The Federal commander, Col. Canby, orders an attack, hoping to squeeze his 2,500 Federal troops in between the two columns of Confederates in order to divide and conquer. However, the Federals are hindered by accurate artillery fire from the Rebels. Although Green is outnumbered by the 2,500 Federals attacking the town, the attackers find to their dismay that Peralta is an unplanned fortress, the ground being criss-crossed by irrigation canals and low adobe walls, denying the Yankees any easy way in. The fighting devolves into isolated skirmishes with no advantage gained. Meanwhile, Gen. Sibley appears at the ford, on the western bank of the river, and plows across the stream and forms up on the eastern bank. Almost immediately, Union fire is directed on Sibley’s force, which is isolated on the river bank. Sibley loses his nerve and immediately calls a retreat back across the river. Unaccountably, Canby calls a time out for his troops to rest and eat. As the Federals once again form up to try Peralta again, a fierce dust storm arises, driving into the Federals’ faces, and by dark Canby finally calls off the attack. Under cover of darkness, Green fords his men across the river and reunites with Sibley, as they continue their retreat south.

—An artist named John Henry Brown writes in his journal: "Petitions have been sent to congress praying that the same mail facilities may be extended to Democratic papers which are enjoyed by Republican papers. This looks strange in this land of liberty, the Constitution of which declares, that the freedom of speech and of the press shall not be abridged. The truth is, to be a Democrat now is to be a Traitor, in the estimation of the Administration."

—The New York Times publishes this eulogy for Albert Sidney Johnston, the Southern commander at Shiloh:
The death of the rebel General, SIDNEY JOHNSTON, at the battle of Pittsburgh, is now definitely settled; and the rebels grievously mourn the loss of their distinguished commander. He had previously been under a cloud on account of his want of success in Kentucky and Tennessee; but he vindicated both his courage and skill, as well as the sincerity of his treason, on the fatal Sunday upon which he fell; and though that affair, like all his previous efforts in this war, was a failure, yet rebel criticism is silent in presence of his death. It was undoubtedly he, and not BEAUREGARD, who conceived and managed the brilliant rebel maunoeuvering of Sunday, by which the rebel columns were shifted with such rapidity, and hurled now upon one of our wings, then upon the other, then upon the centre, then upon some apparently weak point, and everywhere with a spirit and dash that could not be excelled. The tactics were all characteristic of JOHNSTON. He exposed his person, too, with recklessness. It is probable indeed that he had been driven to desperation by the assaults that have recently been made upon him, and that in despondency and misery, he courted death upon the field. It is a sad ending to a career which had for so long time been eminent and honorable.—Mary Boykin Chestnut notes in her diary, after a list of losses and ills that the South is suffering: "I would rather live in Siberia, worse still, in Sahara, than live in a country surrendered to Yankees."

April 13, 1862

April 13, 1862: In New Mexico, Gen. Henry H. Sibley, commanding the Confederates’ Army of New Mexico, evaluates his position. His army has been weakened by their retreat from Glorieta Pass, and their wagon train was destroyed at that battle. His troops arrive in Santa Fe, and fall back further to Albuquerque. Sibley is concerned that he will be squeezed between the Union force from Ft. Union, now under Col. Gabriel Paul, and the other up from Ft. Craig, under Col. Canby. Canby approaches close enough to lob shells into Albuquerque, and then pulls away, fearing that the rest of the Rebel troops will arrive on their retreat. Canby moves east into Tijera Canyon, where, after a forced march, the 1,100 Federals under Col. Paul join him. Now, with over 2,200 troops, Canby is a tangible threat to the Rebels, who are facing the real possibility of starvation. The Rebels begin the long retreat south to El Paso. The New Mexico Campaign is over.

---Peninsula Campaign: On the Virginia Peninsula, McClellan’s army has grown to over 101,000, and is poised seemingly to strike a blow at Yorktown. Gen. Joseph Johnston, in command of the Confederate troops, decides to abandon his new defenses at the Rappahannock, and puts his army on the road to the Peninsula to confront McClellan there.

---Kate Cumming, a nurse with the army hospital in the Army of Tennessee (recently the Army of the Mississippi) at Corinth, writes in her diary:

I have conversed with some of the wounded prisoners. One of them, quite a young man, named Nott, is very talkative. He says that he dislikes Lincoln and abolitionism as much as we do; declares that he is fighting to save the Union, and nothing more. All of them say the same thing. What a glorious Union it would be!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April 12, 1862

April 12, 1862:  The Andrews Raid—Or, The Great Locomotive Chase:  In Georgia occurs one of the most daring covert operations of the war.  James Andrews of the Union army, with nineteen volunteers, hijack the locomotive called The General, in a bid to drive the train north, burning bridges as they went.  In conjunction with this move, Gen. Ormsby Mitchel marched his division of Federal troops from Shelbyville, Tennessee, to Huntsville, Alabama, with the intent of moving against  Chattanooga with less interference, due to the Rebels being unable to bring up reinforcements fast since the railroad would be in operable.  On April 11, Mitchel’s division arrives in Huntsville and capture it, and Andrews and his men arrive in Marietta, Georgia.  This morning, Andrews and his crew successfully steal The General, and begin speeding north.  Railroad employees are able to get to a working telegraph station to send a warning up and down the line before the Yankee operatives begin cutting the wires.  Fuller, Murphy, and Cain, three railroad men, find a handcar, and begin pumping to catch the Yankees.  Meanwhile, Andrews and his men tear up the track at one point, and clip telegraph wires.  When Fuller and Murphy reach the broken track, they commandeer another locomotive, and add some Confederate infantrymen, and speed after Andrews.  Since The General now could no longer slow down to burn bridges, the Yankees speed northward to keep away from the chase behind them.  As they near Chattanooga, at Ringgold station, they are out of fuel.  Andrews instructs his men to jump and scatter, but within a week all of Andrews’ Raiders are caught and imprisoned.
---Capt. William Thompson Lusk, of the Union Army  at Port Royal, reports on the effect of Spring on South Carolina, and offers some intriguing comments on how cultural and economical change may win the war:
I hardly know how, writing from peaceful Beaufort, I can find themes so exciting as to gratify the tastes of the public, used to tales of victories purchased at bloody rates; yet the importance of the work now quietly being wrought at Beaufort must not be underrated.
Here too, as well as on the splendid fields of the West, the spirit of John Brown is marching on. Toward the close of last autumn our troops entered Beaufort, then deserted by its inhabitants, and looking sad and desolate. Now the winter has passed away and the spring is far advanced. Nature has put on her most lovable hues. The dense dark foliage of the pine and the magnolia harmoniously mingle with the bright new leaves of the forest. The streets of the city are once more busy with life. Vessels float in the harbor. Plantations are being cultivated. Wharves are being built. Business is prosperous. And the quondam proud resort of the proudest of Aristocrats is being inundated with Yankees acquainted with low details regarding Dollars and Cents. There are all sorts of Yankee ventures in town, from the man with the patent armor recommended by McClellan, which no one buys, to the enterprising individual who manufactures pies in the old Connecticut style, and who has laid the foundation of an immense fortune.
And then he comments satirically on politics and generalship:
Can anything be more beautiful than the strategy of our Leaders, which strips war of its terrors and makes it so eminently safe? . . . Now there is no doubt that our Army ought long ago to have been in possession of both Charleston and Savannah. Common sense teaches us that much, although we know nothing whatever of military affairs forsooth, and still less of the peculiar circumstances which happen to govern the action of our Generals. Well, when we see matters in this condition, common sense teaches us that the proper remedy is to decapitate incompetency, and to put the “right man in the right place.” The proper time for doing this is when, after long and earnest labor, a Commander is seen to be ready to strike a blow. Then is the moment to clamor loudly for his dismissal, and insist that another be put in his place, and when this one shall reap the harvest his predecessor sowed, we will all nod our heads approvingly at such evidence of our own ineffable wisdom. This is decidedly the most pleasant mode of proceeding for a public unacquainted with military matters but governed by common sense, and it is so satisfactory to all parties concerned, excepting perhaps the poor devil that gets decapitated.
---Sarah Morgan of Baton Rouge writes in her diary about the losses to her family since the war began---a brother killed in a duel, her father dead of natural causes, and the departure of her three remaining brothers into the army and navy of the South---while remembering a social event in her pre-war life:
And these days that are going by remind me of Hal, too. I am walking in our footsteps of last year. The eighth was the day we gave him a party, on his return home. I see him so distinctly standing near the pier table, talking to Mr. Sparks, whom he had met only that morning, and who, three weeks after, had Harry’s blood upon his hands. . . . All those dancing there that night have undergone trial and affliction since. Father is dead, and Harry. Mr. Trezevant lies at Corinth with his skull fractured by a bullet; every young man there has been in at least one battle since, and every woman has cried over her son, brother, or sweetheart, going away to the wars, or lying sick and wounded. And yet we danced that night, and never thought of bloodshed! The week before Louisiana seceded, Jack Wheat stayed with us, and we all liked him so much, and he thought so much of us; — and last week — a week ago to-day — he was killed on the battle-field of Shiloh.

April 9, 1862

April 9, 1862:  In Albuquerque, the cautious Col. Canby orders a retreat from Albuquerque, southward, without re-taking Albuquerque for the Union.
The Richmond Daily Dispatch claims the Battle of Shiloh as a Southern victory:
The victory at Shiloh is grand in its consequences. It is full of satisfaction to the Southern mind. . . . It is most grateful and cheering to all of our people. It proves that the South can rise equal to the exigency of its situation, and is the very best sign of the war of our unconquerable determination and spirit. Let Shiloh be our example and our watchword, and the enemy must be hurled back like the wave that drives against the solid rock.
If this victory is gratifying and cheering to us, it must fill the heart of the enemy with mortification and despair. Such a sudden elevation of a feeble rebel army from disaster, flight, and disorder, to a grand victory over their immense, well equipped, and well disciplined troops, is enough to fill them with despondency and to suggest the hopelessness of their effort to subjugate the South. . . .
The news of this victory will change the face of things in Europe. There our cause had been damaged by disaster here. The press and the politician had begun to change the tone of their speculations. Our friends, even, were less confident in their prognostications. Shiloh proves that the Yankee effort at subjugation is only another labor of Sisyphus; the stone has rolled again to the bottom of the mountain, and the laborer, contemplating the fruitlessness of his exertions, must proceed with what heart he can to renew them.
Meantime, sons of the South ! let us continue the glorious work to which we are now fully aroused. Let us not relax one single effort. We should be vigilant and unflagging — with “eye that never winks and wing that never tires.” We should pursue the enemy, and never let him rest until the country is rid of his hateful presence.
 
---Judith White McGuire, in Richmond, writes her mourning reaction to the death of Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston at Shiloh:
9th.—Our victory at Shiloh complete, but General Albert Sydney Johnston was killed. The nation mourns him as one of our most accomplished officers. He fell while commanding in the thickest of the fight. It is an overwhelming loss to the Western army, and to the whole country. Beauregard pursued the enemy, but their General (Grant) having been reinforced very largely, our army had to retreat to Corinth, which they did in good order. This was done by order of General Johnston, should Buell reinforce Grant. They are now at Corinth, awaiting an attack from the combined forces. Van Dorn reinforced Beauregard. We are anxiously awaiting the result.

---Sergeant Alexander G. Downing, of the 11th Iowa Infantry, records his experience with burying the dead at Shiloh:
We are still burying the dead. It rained again today. The ground is so thoroughly soaked that it is difficult to dig the graves deep enough and keep out the water. We bury our dead by companies, all of one company in one grave, and if only one of a company is killed, the body is placed in a grave by itself. The bodies of the rebels’ dead are placed side by side in long graves. The carcasses of horses are removed by burning them.

April 8, 1862

April 8, 1862:  In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Col. Canby and 1,200 Federal troops, with 4 cannon, approach the outskirts of town.  The Confederate garrison also had cannon, and the two sides exchanged rounds of artillery fire for a while, with little damage to either side, until people of the town snuck out to tell Canby that his shells were damaging their homes, and that he should stop. 

---On this date, Gen. John Pope accepts the surrender of the Confederates at Island No. 10, under Gen. Mackall.  Union Victory.
--- At a sharp skirmish at Fallen Timbers, as Sherman pushes the pursuit of the retreating Rebels, Col. Nathan  Bedford Forrest personally leads a cavalry charge to stop the Yankees, and is wounded twice—and still escapes, alone, back to his regiment.