Thursday, September 27, 2012

September 27, 1862

September 27, 1862:  The Confederate Congress considers a second conscription act, to supplement the first one back in April.  This new act drafts men aged 36 to 45.  Governor Joseph  Brown of Georgia, notorious for his opposition to efforts of the Richmond government to wield centralized power, opposes this measure vigorously, as does the governor of South Carolina.  Pres. Davis ameliorates the impact of the law by exempting certain privileged classes of men, especially wealthy slave owners.  This quiets the furor somewhat, but does nothing to endear the Confederate government to poor whites.
Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States

--- On this date, the 1st Louisiana Native Guards Regiment of New Orleans is the first regiment of African-American troops officially accepted and mustered into the U.S. Army by Major General Benjamin Butler.  Even though Spencer H. Stafford of New York, a white officer, was given command of the regiment, all officers at the company level---captains and lieutenants---were of African-American or African-French heritage.  Soon there will be a 2nd Regiment, and eventually a 3rd Regiment of Lousiana Native Guards. 
Black troops commanded by white officers became the norm, but not at first

---The Huntington Democrat, in Indiana, in what is apparently a common reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation, openly condemns the presidential order, and predicts that the “savage negro” would break out in “insurrection, rapine, murder, arson, and what not.” 

---Maj. Gen. George  B. McClellan, feeling as secure as he does as the hero of the hour, responds to Pres. Lincoln’s inquiries as to why he has not crossed the Potomac in force to pursue Lee, writes to the President in answer, offering excuses in terms of the organizational and operational complexities that the President apparently cannot possibly understand:

    This army is not now in condition to undertake another campaign nor to bring on another battle, unless great advantages are offered by same mistake of the enemy or pressing military exigencies render it necessary. We are greatly deficient in officers. Many of the old regiments are reduced to mere skeletons. The new regiments need instruction. Not a day should be lost in filling the old regiments-our main dependence-and in supplying vacancies among the officers by promotion.
    My present purpose is to hold the army about as it is now, rendering Harper's Ferry secure and watching the river closely, intending to attack the enemy should he attempt to cross to this side.  Our possession of Harper's Ferry gives us the great advantage of a secure debouche, but we cannot avail ourselves of it until the railroad bridge is finished, because we cannot otherwise supply a greater number of troops than we now have on the Virginia side at that point. . . .

He goes on to reveal a still-persistent illusion that he has been engaging greatly superior numbers, in spite of all  evidence to the contrary:

    I would be glad to have Peck's division as soon as possible. I am surprised that Sigel's men should have been sent to Western Virginia without my knowledge. The last I heard from you on the subject was that they were at my disposition. In the last battles the enemy was undoubtedly greatly superior to us in number, and it was only by very hard fighting that we gained the advantage we did. As it was, the result was at one period very doubtful, and we had all we could do to win the day. If the enemy receives considerable re-enforcements and we none, it is possible that I may have too much on my hands in the next battle. . . .

Private David Lane, a young soldier in the 17th Michigan Infantry Regiment, still in camp after the Battle of Antietam, writes in his diary an idyllic picture of camp life:

Antietam, September 27th, 1862.
We have had one week of rest; are encamped three miles from our last battlefields, with a prospect of staying here several weeks. There is much sickness, but nothing of a serious nature. As for myself, I have not seen an hour’s sickness since I left Michigan. Our camp is pleasantly situated on a high hill, and the surrounding hills and valleys are white with tents. In the evening, when every tent is lighted up, they present a brilliant and beautiful appearance. Several regiments are supplied with brass bands, which delight us every evening with a “concord of sweet sounds.” Last evening the Fiftieth Pennsylvania serenaded the “Bloody Seventeenth,” as they call us.

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