Saturday, May 26, 2012

May 26, 1862

May 26, 1862:  As Stonewall Jackson speeds northward toward Charles Town and Harper’s Ferry, Pres. Lincoln issues orders to Gen. Fremont (whose army is operating in the mountains west of the Shenandoah Valley) to begin an immediate and rapid movement westward on the highway to Harrisonburg, south of Winchester, in order to  cut off the Rebels from their base of supply.  But Fremont interprets his orders broadly, and ignores the presidential instruction.  Fremont heads north instead, staying parallel to—but outside of—the Shenandoah.  Lincoln also orders Gen. McDowell in Fredericksburg to detach at least 20,000 of his troops and send them west to try and trap Jackson.  The President also directs McDowell to move his headquarters north to Manassas, and to take operational command of the whole Valley plan.

Situation: Virginia, May 26, 1862, from the Shenandoah to McClellan's Siege of Richmond.

---Gen. Nathaniel Banks hastens his retreat northward, and crosses his armies into Maryland, abandoning even Harper’s Ferry.  A young soldier in Banks’ division writes a complaint about being “utterly exhausted . . . every joint, muscle, and tendon in [my] body as a sore as a blood boil . . . [a] sickening craving for food . . . on the point of freezing to death . . . what could add to one’s misery?”

---As Gen. McClellan closes in slowly around Richmond, some of the tension inside of the city subsides a little.  C.S. War Department clerk John Beauchamp Jones writes in his journal, noting the atmosphere amongst the citizens and the chagrin of the tobacco traders who are hoping to sell their store at a huge profit to the Yankee invaders:

MAY 26TH.—Gen. Lee is still strengthening the army. Every day additional regiments are coming. We are now so strong that no one fears the result when the great battle takes place. McClellan has delayed too long, and he is doomed to defeat. The tobacco savers know it well, and their faces exhibit chagrin and disappointment. Their fortunes will not be made this year, and so their reputations may be saved.

---Near Vicksburg, Mississippi, Farragut decides that an assault on the city would be impractical and that he does not have enough troops to hold the city even if it falls.  Farragut leaves behind 8 vessels to watch the city, and with the rest of his flotilla, begins to drop back down the river to New Orleans.

---Surgeon Alfred L. Castleman, serving with the Union’s Army of the Potomac, just outside of Richmond, notes in his journal the ghastly (and all too common) neglect of the sick by the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army, and the often insurmountable task that the medical officers face:

26th.—To-day, was so far recovered that I reported myself for duty at the Liberty Hall Hospital.[1] I found there about four hundred sick, about one hundred of whom were crowded into the house. The rest were lying about in stables, alive with vermin—chicken houses, the stench of which would sicken a well man, on the ground, exposed alternately to beating rain and the rays of the scorching sun. There were no beds, no blankets, no straw, no cooking utensils and nothing to cook. The sick were lying on the bare floor, or on the bare ground, without covering, and this was the third day they had been in this situation without food, or without any one to look after them, except as they could mutually aid each other. All kinds of diseases prevail, from simple intermittent to the lowest camp typhus, complicated with scurvey; from simple diarrhœa to the severest of dysentery. My first effort has been to separate the simple from the infectious diseases. To pitch what few tents I have, and to get as many as I can under shelter, I have before me, in the organization of this hospital, a Herculean task for a man not quite recovered from a spell of sickness. But what I can, I will do.

[1]  Liberty Hall, a plantation house which had been the  home of Patrick Henry.

---Katherine Prescott Wormeley, a nurse serving with the United States Sanitary Commission, in company with Frederick Law Olmstead, writes in her journal about trying to evacuate a large number of sick soldiers by steamboat from West Point, Virginia, near the front lines on the James Peninsula.  She has particular trouble with the steamboat captain, who does not want to carry sick men:

It was night before the last man was got on board. There were fifty-six of them, — ten very sick ones.  The boat had a little shelter-cabin. As we were laying mattresses on the floor, while the doctors were finding the men, the captain stopped us, refusing to let us put typhoid fever cases below the deck, — on account of the crew, he said, — and threatening to push off at once from the shore. Mrs. Howland and I looked at him.  I did the terrible, and she the pathetic; and he abandoned the contest.

No comments:

Post a Comment