Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 31, 1862

July 31, 1862: In Chattanooga, Tennessee, Gen. Bragg has now combined his 35,000 men, all transferred by train, with Gen. Edmund Kirby-Smith’s 20,000. The two generals are uncertain as to commande protocol, however: neither one, it seems, has authority to assume command over the other’s troops, being from two separate departments.

—Robert Knox Sneden, of the III Corps staff of the Army of the Potomac, still penned in at Harrison’s Landing on the James River in Virginia, writes in his journal:

Raining most of the day, with thunder and lightning storm in the afternoon. We had the same kind of weather yesterday after 7 p.m., and are now used to discomfort and getting wet. Fresh beef and fresh wheat bread is now daily issued to the army, while the sutlers furnish pickles, cheese, sardines, and cheap brandy for a high price. . . . At about 12:30 midnight, all were started from their sleep by rapid and heavy artillery firing on the James River at Westover Landing [opposite the Union army camp]. . . . The long roll beat in the camps near us. Divisions and brigades turned out in line and awaited orders. . . . A thousand rounds were fired. The sonorous roar of the gunboats, now rapidly firing, was heard above the others. I climbed a tall pine tree, and as we were not more than two and a half miles from the river, saw the trail of the fiery shells bursting in the woods on the horizon, as the night was very dark and lowering the flashes of the guns lit up the plain for miles in our front. . . . The enemy had opened on us with artillery from forty-three pieces simultaneously!

—George Templeton Strong writes in his journal, complaining of the summer’s heat:
We still stew. If I have shed no blood in the country’s service, I have been liberal with another secretion, sweat, with which I have bedewed the streets and sprinkled my papers, so that I was obliged to protect them with umbrelloid blotting paper. Don’t wonder that the national cause, so prosperous in February and March, goes "all agley" in this weather, or rather in that intensified form of summer that now reigns and roasts alive below the Potomac. How can honest Northern men fight when the very marrow of their bones is oozing out at every pore of their bodies? . . .

—William Lyon, an officer in the Union army in northern Mississippi, writes home to his wife Adelia a heartfelt affirmation of his beliefs in the war’s purposes:
Camp Clear Creek, Miss., July 31, 1862—You are mistaken in supposing that we are meeting with reverses out here. These raids of guerillas have no significance, whatever. A few of them pitch into an unprotected town of no consequence, rob, steal and burn, and then skedaddle. They have not taken a single place occupied by our troops, of any value to us, except Murfreesboro in Tennessee, and that was retaken in a very few days. So don’t let your heart be troubled when you read all these sensational dispatches about guerilla operations. They serve one good purpose, however, and that is to encourage enlistment at the North.

I think this gigantic rebellion will be put down without resorting to a draft, every soldier of the 1,000,000 who aids in doing it being a volunteer. History furnishes no parallel to this. The whole policy of the Government is now changed, and war from henceforth is to be war. Where the army of the Union goes, there slavery ceases forever. It is astonishing how soon the blacks have learned this, and they are flocking in considerable numbers already in our lines. The people here will learn before this war is over that ‘The way of the transgressor is hard.’

Tell our Canada friends, many of whom seem to be groping in the darkness in regard to us, that this is a war for civil and religious liberty, for civilization, for Cristianity, on the part of this Government against crime, oppression and barbarism; and that all of their sympathies ought to be with us. But whether foreign nations comprehend the true bearings of this struggle or not, as sure as there is justice on earth or a God in heaven, we shall triumph. I shall not think of leaving the service so long as I have an arm to wield a sword or a voice to encourage my men to fight in so holy a cause. But I find I am making a stump speech, so I close.

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