Friday, November 16, 2012

November 15, 1862

November 15, 1862:  On this date, units of the Army of the Potomac step off on their new campaign: to make an end run around the Confederate right, cross the Rappahannock River, and drive straight south to Richmond.  It begins with a strong feint at the Rebel positions near Culpepper, Virginia, and artillery duels.  The Southern troops are caught by surprise.

---George Wythe Randolph, Secretary of War for the Confederate States, today submits his resignation to President Davis.  Randolph has been continually frustrated with Davis’s micromanagement of the War Department and going over his head on many matters.  Randolph is also fighting tuberculosis, which influences his decision.  Randolph is the third man to hold this post, after Leroy Walker and Judah P. Benjamin.

---Charles Wright Wills, a Union officer in Grant’s Army of the Tennessee, is stationed in La Grange, Tennessee, waiting for orders to go forward.  In his journal, he muses over the relative popularity of the various commanders, in the opinion of the common soldier:

We can’t have more than 40 days’ of marching weather yet until the rains come, and in that time we ought at least to make 250 miles. The more I think about the matter, the surer I am that we won’t do much before next May. Well, I enjoy soldiering and can stand the delay in proportion; but inactivity when a fellow can’t see the reason therefor, is provoking to a degree extensive. . . . General feeling is that the Potomac Army is only good to draw greenbacks and occupy winter quarters. We’re in hopes that Pope will be sent back to us after he finishes hanging those Indians. I don’t believe there is a regiment in this army that would not cheer him as its corps commander. Everybody seems to be willing to bet something on Pope. Hurlbut is the most popular man here as a division commander, and I think that Grant could get more votes than any other man for commander of the army, always excepting Rosy. Grant is not so popular among the general officers, as far as I know, but the whole line believe in him, mostly, because he is for going ahead and will fight his men.

---Elisha Franklin Paxton, a staff officer in the Army of Northern Virginia, has just been promoted to Brigadier General, and given command of the Stonewall Brigade.  He  writes home to his wife and indulges in rather gloomy thoughts on the prospects for the army, himself, and the Confederacy:

How I wish that I was at home again with those who love me! It is the wish of many thousands around me who have left homes loved as well as mine. God grant it may soon be realized! But we must stay just where we are and do just what we are ordered to do. There is no use in having will or wish in the matter, for there is nothing we can do to accomplish it. We must wait in patience for the event when the war shall end, and those of us who survive will be at liberty to return again to our old associations and pursuits. Soon we shall have winter, and it will bring with it, I fear, much suffering to our troops, and to many, I fear, a still keener pang in the letter from home telling that wife and child that never knew want before are suffering from hunger and cold.

If ever a people on earth had cause upon bended knees to pray God to spare a further infliction of this terrible curse, it is ours. We have suffered much, yet the future seems to hold for us an inexhaustible store of suffering—the bloodshed of the battle, the diseases which the camp and exposure engender, and the want of food and clothing produced by laying waste the country. It seems dark enough.




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