Wednesday, August 8, 2012

August 7, 1862

August 7, 1862: Gen. Robert E. Lee, in an attempt to coordinate with Gen. Jackson, gives him instructions on Jackson’s possibilities—and explains why Lee must still keep a close eye on what the Yankees are doing in the Tidewater part of Virginia:
. . . Porter's mortar fleet is in Hampton Roads; his gunboats at City Point and Curl's Neck. I hope to determine to-day what it means, but at present it seems to me too hazardous to diminish the forces here until something more is ascertained. I therefore cannot promise to send you the re-enforcements I intended and still desire. As the expectation of re-enforcements may delay your operations and otherwise embarrass you and prevent your making an advantageous movement, you had better not calculate on them. If I can send them I will; if I cannot, and you think it proper and advantageous, act without them. Being on the spot you must determine what force to operate against. I agree with you in believing that if you advance into Fauquier [County] the force at Fredericksburg, if it be Popes, would in all probability follow; but if it be Burnside's, and Pope in your front is strong enough to resist you, it might operate injuriously on your rear, also to the railroad, your communications, &c. . . . I must now leave the matter to your reflection and good judgment. Make up your mind what is best to be done under all the circumstances which surround us, and let me hear the result at which you arrive. I will inform you if any change takes place here that bears on the subject.
I am, very respectfully, &c.,

R. E. LEE,
General, Commanding.

—McClellan’s advance has finally occupied Malvern Hill, and skirmishes with Rebel cavalry. Meanwhile, Lee has put his troops on the road toward Malvern Hill. They camp on the night of the 6th, and this morning, as they advance toward Malvern Hill to push back the Yankee incursion, they find Malvern Hill empty. McClellan has pulled the Federal troops back. 

—A Union officer names Charles Wright Wills, now of the 8th Illinois Infantry, writes in his journal from Tuscumbia, Alabama, where his regiment is bivouacked, and tells of the activity of Rebel raiders trying to destroy the rail lines which the Federals now use for supply, as well as his feelings about slavery and the War and how it is prosecuted—and a few prophetic remarks about General Pope’s arrogance: 
This has been the hottest day of the summer, and I’ve been in the sun all day with thick woolen clothes on, wool shirts, too. I started for Decatur about 7 this morning and got back at 5 p.m. All platform cars, no possible chance for shade. I rode on the cowcather going out, and on the tender, which was ahead, coming back. We got within ten miles of Decatur when we came to two bridges burned last night, and had to come back. There is not a bridge or culvert on this road as far as our brigade guards it, that has not been burned, at least once, and many of the cattle guards even have been burned. They don’t fire on the trains though in this country, which is some little consolation to the traveler. Since we have been guarding the road, some two weeks, they have burned in our district four bridges, one water tank, and two station houses, and torn up rails several times. All this work is done in the night. . . . The negroes are under no restraint whatever, now. Don’t half work, their masters say, About 40 negro women who were clearing a piece of woodland dropped their axes and picks and came out to the road as the train passed. They were by odds the most antic and amusing lot of slaves I have yet seen. . . . I have seen but two negroes yet that have marks of severe punishment. They were man and wife, and belong to a planter living 12 miles from here. The man I think is made a cripple for life from blows by a club on his ankles and knees, the woman is badly cut on the arms and shoulders, as with a horsewhip, but she’s all right yet. How a man can be fool enough to so abuse such valuable property as this is more than I can understand. . . . Colonel Kellogg seems to think that I will be mustered out in a short time. I’ll promise you one thing, that if I am, I’ll not enlist again until the policy of this war changes, and in actions as well as words, too. J. Pope is disgusting me with him very rapidly. John is a horrid blower of his own horn. If he don’t astonish this country, after all of his blowing, the country will astonish him to his entire dissatisfaction before he’s many months older. Oh! if Grant will only go to work and get somebody whipped, or if he’d retreat, that would be better than doing nothing, though not as good as advancing.

—Sarah Morgan gets news of the already-decided Battle of Baton Rouge a day late, and mourns the loss of the town to the Yankees again:
I am so disheartened! I have been listening with the others to a man who was telling us about Baton Rouge, until I am heartsick. He says the Yankees have been largely reinforced, and are prepared for another attack which will probably take place to morrow; that the fight was a dreadful one, we driving them in, and losing twelve hundred, to their fifteen hundred. It must have been awful! And that our troops have resolved to burn the town down, since they cannot hold it under the fire of the gunboats.

—George Templeton Strong of New York City writes in his journal about McClellans’ fading star:
McClellan’s great name is growing very obscure, I regret to say, and we generally doubt whether he is a genuine congener of Napoleon after all. As we deified him without reason, I suppose we are free to reduce his rank whenever we like. Prevailing color of people’s talk is blue. What’s very bad, we beging to lose faith in Uncle Abe.Strong continues:
We gradually come round to a better opinion of McClellan’s movements during the memorable battle week; incline to believe his march on the James River a most delicate and critical operation, successfully executed under the most disadvantageous conditions, winding up with demoralizing repulse and slaughter of the rebels at Malvern Hill.

—Gen. Stonewall Jackson orders his three divisions (Winder, A.P. Hill, and Ewell) to break camp and march northward from Gordonsville.

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