Tuesday, October 23, 2012

October 23, 1862

October 23, 1862: The Richmond Daily Dispatch prints an editorial column that argues that the Union can never be restored now, and that the implacable hatred between North and South is too fervid and too permanent to ever be effaced:
Nevertheless, the best policy, simply as policy, to say nothing of right and justice, which the Lincoln Government could have pursued at the time of his inauguration, and at any time since, would have been to permit the South to depart in peace.–The Government would have lost nothing by that policy, which it could have preserved by any other, and it would have saved the hundreds of thousands of lives and the hundreds of millions of treasure which the adoption of coercive measures has cost. So it will be to the end. Peace now, late as it is, is a better policy for the North than war. The South is never to be re-united to the old Union, except by the extermination of its whole people.–And when this is accomplished, of what value will the Union be to the North? With the whole framework of Southern society overthrown, the proprietors and directors of the labor dead or exiled, and the laborers themselves turned loose, what practical gain will ensure to the North? . . . There are no two nations of Europe which have ever hated each other with more intense and implacable hate than North and South. There are no two nations in Europe more dissimilar, politically, socially, in almost every other respect that can be named. The two races, apart from their present hostility, do not think alike, do not look alike, do not even talk alike, and have nothing alike but their mutual hate. It is useless to attempt the union of such opposing elements. Better let them part in peace.

The Union attack at Pocotaligo Bridge
Battle of Pocotaligo Bridge, S.C. Yesterday, in an attempt to cut the railroad between Savannah and Charleston, several Federal regiments, under command of Generals Brannan and Terry, land at Macky’s Point in the coastal waters of southern South Carolina, and march inland toward Pocotaligo Bridge. At first, Col. Walker of the Confederate Army has only a battery of cannon and 400+ men to oppose them. Heavy fighting delays the Federal advance, although the bluecoats manage to drive off the Rebels each time. By the time they reach Pocotaligo, Walker has received 200 reinforcements, and the two sides blaze away until dusk, when the thwarted Yankees march back to the river and board their transports back to Hilton Head. Today, pickets clash along the railway route, but the Federals are unable to find any openings. Confederate Victory.

—George Michael Neese of Chew’s Battery, in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, writes in his journal of a not-so-harmless prank by the pickets on duty.

October 23 — Still on picket. To-day we had an alarm at the front, caused by the explosion of a shell which some of our outer pickets found and threw in the fire just to see whether it would explode; and sure enough they saw, for the shell exploded with a report similar to a cannon, and sowed the fire and iron fragments around like a young volcano. The explosion stirred up a lively scene for a while among the reserve pickets. We rushed to our guns with the full expectation of seeing a Yankee battery appear over a hill about a mile in our front and open on us, but when we learned the cause of the sudden alarm all anticipations of a Yankee advance were expelled and quietude again reigned along our picket line.

—Private George Grenville Benedict, of the 12th Vermont Infantry Regiment, writes a letter he intends to publish in the Burlington Free Press, his hometown newspaper, and makes observations about hospital conditions in the Army of the Potomac:

The men, as a general thing, have a repugnance to going into hospital. The hospital is a large tent, kept warm by stoves, in which the sick men lie on straw, placed on the ground, as the Government does not furnish cots. It looks a little hard; but ours is a good field hospital, and the inmates are better off than many in and around this city. The sick and wounded men in the permanent hospitals in Washington, Georgetown and Alexandria, number thirty-four thousand—an army in themselves. Many of these are in tents, for want of houses, and many, I fear, from what I hear, suffer from want of suitable care. The Government is now building on the plain here, not far from our camp, some immense one-story wooden buildings, for a general hospital, which, when completed, will give the covering of a roof to thousands who now shiver in the hospital tent.Benedict in this letter also renders a description of a "Plague of Dust" in the camp.
What do you think of a bath of thirty-six hours’ duration in Washington dirt? That is what we have been enjoying yesterday and to-day. It had been quite dusty for a day or two and you must remember that we are on a bare surface of clay, denuded of grass and easily ground into the finest, most adhesive and most disagreeable dust in the world—the dust of Washington. It had sifted pretty thoroughly over and into every thing in our tents, when yesterday morning the wind began to blow. It commenced before light with a furious gust, which woke our thousand sleepers, and many other thousands around us, to find the dust pouring in upon us through every opening and crevice. We sprang up and with blankets and over-coats closed the openings; but the dust was still there, kept in constant motion by the slatting of our canvas walls, and the only way was to lie down again and take it as it came. What a dirty crew crawled out of the tents that morning! It was of little use to brush or wash —which latter habit, by the way, has to be indulged with moderation in our camp, for we are short of water. . . . water is now a luxury if not a rarity, in the camp of the Twelfth. The wind kept up and the dust with it, and it is not fairly down yet. It is a peculiar life, when you must eat, breathe and drink earth, instead of food, air and water. You open your mouth, it is as if some one had put in a spoonful of pulverized clay. You put your hand to your hair, it feels like a dust brush. You touch your cheek, it is a clod. You place your finger in your ear, it is like running it into a hole in the ground. You draw from one of the dust holes in your clothes, the mud-stained rag which a few hours since was your clean handkerchief, and wipe a small pile of "sacred soil" from the corner of either eye. You look on the faces of your comrades, they are of the earth, earthy. The dust penetrates every fibre of every article of clothing; you feel dirty clear through. But it is of no use to attempt to describe it; it is unutterable—this plague of dust.

—George Templeton Strong, of New York City, writes in his journal, despairing of falling Republican fortunes without any decisive battlefield victories:
To Columbia College this norning with George F. Allen in time for chapel. Service satisfactory. . . . Meeting of the Executive Committee of the Sanitary Commission and slight supper thereafter. [Frederick Law] Olmsted present, also an intelligent, well-mannered Dr. Fowler, a refugee from Montgomery, Alabama. That town cast him out because he was thought overzealous in caring for a hospital full of Union prisoners, onf which he was in charge. . . . The war on rebellion languishes. We make no onward movements and gain no victories. McClellan’s response is doubtless majectic, but if a couchant lion postpone his spring too long, people will begind wondering whether he is not a stuffed specimen after all. . . . One thing is clear: that unless we gain decisive success before the November election, this state will range itself against the Administration. It it does, a dishonorable peace and permanent disunion are not unlikely. The whole community is honeycombed by secret sympathizers with treason who will poke out their heads and flaunt their "red, white, and blue" tentacles the moment avowed division of Northern sentiment enables them to do so safely. . . .

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