Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 31, 1863

January 31, 1863

--Battle of Charleston Harbor: Last night, a Confederate flotilla under command of Flag Officer Duncan Ingraham moves out from the inner reaches of Charleston Harbor to attack the blockading fleet.  In the wee hours of this morning, the CSS Chicora and CSS Palmetto State, two new ironclad rams, move into position.  The construction of both ships was paid for by the contributions of the ladies of the South, particularly South Carolina, for use against Port Royal.  On blockade patrol for the U.S. Navy is a collection of wooden light craft, lightly armed, and made to chase blockade runners, principally. 
CSS Palmetto State rams the USS Mercedita.
The Palmetto State strikes first, as she cruises toward the USS Mercedita, ramming the Union ship on the starboard quarter.  Listing to port, the Mercedita is unable to depress her guns low enough to hit the Rebel ironclad.  The Palmetto State fires a shot from her bow gun, however, that traverses nearly the entire length of the Yankee ship diagonally (puncturing the ship’s boiler and killing a number of crewmen along the way with the scalding steam) and blowing a large hole through the port side of the Yankee vessel. 
USS Mercedita, with laundry out on the rigging
Mercedita soon surrenders to the Confederates, and strikes her colors.  The CSS Chicora (commanded by John R. Tucker), meanwhile, steams towards the USS Keystone State, whose skipper, Commander William LeRoy, hails the mysterious vessel. 
USS Keystone State
Getting no answer, Le Roy calls his crew to general quarters, and hits the Chicora with several ineffectual shots.  He tries to get off a broadside, but the Chicora beats him to it, firing into the Keystone State’s hull, killing several Federal sailors and starting several fires below decks.  The Yankees begin to put out the fires, and the Keystone State again closes with the Rebel ram, but another volley from the iron ship gashes the Keystone ‘s boiler, and Le Roy orders the colors to be struck in surrender, with 40 of his men killed or wounded.  One of her side wheels is crippled, and other is not, and still turning, and she drifts away from the Chicora.  Le Roy’s executive officer insists that they are not surrendered, and raises her colors again and, assisted by other Union ships, is able to get away from the slower Rebel ram. 
CSS Chicora at her moorings in Charleston Harbor
Tucker takes the Chicora 6 or 7 miles seaward, chasing 4 other Federal ships, but unable to close with any of them enough to do serious damage with her guns.  The Confederates pronounce the blockade to be broken—an exaggeration.  But indeed it is weakened until the U.S. Navy is able to send some armored ships, like the USS New Ironsides, down to close the port firmly.  Confederate Victory

Middle Tennessee: While on a reconnaissance patrol from Murfreesboro to Franklin, Union cavalry troops encounter Rebel forces at Unionville, Middleton, and Rover, in three separate skirmishes in hand-to-hand saber fighting.  The Yankees lose five wounded, while the Southerners lose at least 12 dead, 12wounded, and nearly 300 prisoners. 

In answer to Gen. John McClernands protest against Grants having taken overall command of the forces moving against Vicksburg (which includes the “Army of the Mississippi” that McClernand invented and put himself in command of), and of marginalizing him by putting him in command of the west bank and Helena, Arkansas, Grant offers him a letter that makes things very clear:

GENERAL: The intention of General Orders, Number 13., is that I will take direct command of the Mississippi River expedition, which necessarily limits your command to the Thirteenth Army Corps.
In charging the Thirteenth Army Corps with garrisoning the WEST bank of the river, I add to it any forces belonging to any command on that bank not already assigned to other corps, and, instead of weakening your force in the field, it will strengthen it by about 7,000 men, still leaving a proper garrison at Helena, the only place I now deem necessary to garrison. All forces and posts garrisoned by the Thirteenth Army Corps are under your command, subject, of course, to directions from these headquarters.

I regard the President as Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and will obey every order of his, but as yet I have seen no order to prevent my taking immediate command in the field, and since the dispatch referred to in your note, I have received another from the General-in-Chief of the Army, authorizing me directly to take command of this army.

Horatio Nelson Taft of Washington, DC writes in his journal of his own meditations on the war:

Washington Saturday Jan’y 31st 1863

The month of Jan’y has passed away and in looking back I find matters connected with the War in much the same condition they were in a month ago. It seems no nearer a close, but on the whole I think matters look more bright for us generaly. The Rebels through their papers repudiate all ideas of our Peace men at the North as to a “re-construction of the Union.” Nothing Short of entire Independence on their part will bring peace. Well, it seems [to] be a question of endurance, and we will see who can stand it the longest.

John Beauchamp Jones, a clerk in the Confederate War Department, writes in his journal about some of the cruel ironies of this war of Brother vs. Brother:

Major Lear, of Texas, who was at the capture of the Harriet Lane, met on the captured steamer his mortally-wounded son, the lieutenant.

A few days ago, Lieut. Buchanan was killed on a United States gun-boat by our sharpshooters. He was the son of Admiral Buchanan, in the Confederate service, now at Mobile. Thus we are reminded of the wars of the roses—father against son, and brother against brother. God speed the growth of the Peace Party, North and South; but we must have independence.

January 30, 1863

January 30, 1863:  Gen Ulysses S. Grant arrives at headquarters at Young’s Point, Louisiana, immediately jumping into the command of the force which will make assault Vicksburg.  Gen. McClernand is sidelined with his corp at Helena, Arkansas, according to the orders Grant issues. 
---The USS Isaac Smith is cruising the Stono River near Charleston when several concealed Confederate batteries open fire on her.  After an extended exchange of artillery fire, the ship is trapped in a crossfire at a bend in the river, her hull pierced and her boiler shot through, and is dead in the water.  She has 8 killed and 17 wounded, including her captain, Comm. Conover.  The Union vessel is compelled to surrender, and is repaired and made into the CSS Stono.

---As if anticipating her husband’s loneliness and wishes, the wife of  Capt. William Jefferson Halsey, a company commander in the 11th New Jersey Infantry, sends a box that arrives the day after he send his plaintive letter.  He writes her back right away:

. . . I want to thank you for the very acceptable present you sent me in the way of socks, cake & tobacco.  The pipe from Mrs. Thompsons I am now using and it is a very nice one.  The cake I gave Charlie a piece of and last night Misters Berry, Stanislo Monise and E. Sturdevant finished it and they all pronounced it good.  The tobacco is the right kind. 

I am getting along finely now.  I have taken in three partners in my mess and Sam cooks for us, which makes it very pleasant.  They are all nice men and we can manage to love better where there is so many than to live separately, and it will be much cheaper for me. . . . I would like to have some things that your own dear hands had made. . . . I am glad you are keeping an account of your expenses.  It will learn you about doing business. . . .


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January 29, 1863

January 29, 1863:  Battle of Bear River (or Bear River Massacre):  Near the border of the Washington Territory and the Utah Territory, Col. Patrick Edward Conner and a force just over 300 volunteer troops from California, based at Salt Lake City, fight a desperate battle with a large force of Shoshone warriors along the Bear River.  Connor had with him four troops of the 2nd California Cavalry and one company of the 3rd California Infantry.  Out of his 300 men, he loses 21 dead and 46 wounded---very heavy losses---but manages to drive the Shoshone, who were reported “in full retreat, but very few of them escaped.”  Connor reports that he counted 240 slain Shoshone on the field, along with a number of dead squaws and papooses.  A large number of the troops also suffered frostbite, frozen fingers, and hypothermia: Conner reports that 75 suffered from frozen feet, and “some of them I fear will be crippled for life.”  There were 160 captive squaws and children, whom Connor released with a little wheat.  Danish immigrant Hans Jasperson, who liked nearby, reported a much smaller number of released women and children, and counted 493 dead Shoshone on the field.  The local Mormon bishop sends a few militiamen to the battle site, where they discover a number of wounded women and children, and bring them back to Franklin town, where they are nursed.  Porter Rockwell and the Mormons find sleds and sleighs with teams to haul the wounded and dead soldiers back to Salt Lake City, saving their lives.  Floundering in the snow, the soldiers are fed and sheltered by the Mormons on the return trip, for which Col. Conner never forgave the Mormons, whom he loathed.

---A very Democrat newspaper in Seneca County, New York, publishes this editorial in a tirade against Lincoln’s government and the way they handled Burnside’s resignation and the firing of Franklin and others:

It has been given out that the Army of the Potomac is to be destroyed. The conduct of the Administration toward the gallant army has tended to its demoralization, and it will be impossible much longer to conceal the real purpose of the partisan maneuverers, who have disposed of its destinies from their closets at Washington aiming to destroy the Army of the Potomac?

The people have no longer any confidence in the Administration, nor the Administration in the army, nor the army in its commanders. The shameful malpractices of the President and his cabinet have disgusted the country, and crippled the national credit. The army in the field is fast diminishing by desertion, disease and slaughter; and it is morally impossible, in the present condition of things, to augment the thinned out ranks by a single recruit. Nothing but disaster stares us in the face. After almost two years of desperate conflict, we find ourselves financially bankrupt, with the flower of our manhood, mercilessly sacrigced [sacrificed] and not a single substantial result achieved.

---The Princess Royal, a British steamer running the blockade, was captured just off of Charleston Harbor by the U.S. Navy.  The Princess was carrying a cargo of steam engines, rifled cannon, rifle muskets, and ammunition.

--- Capt. William Jefferson Halsey, a company commander in the 11th New Jersey Infantry, writes home to his wife about the worsening conditions for the Federal troops still stuck in the places where the “Mud March’ bogged down to a halt in Virginia:

It has rained and snowed since yesterday morning and it is very muddy so that we cannot do anything.  It is very unpleasant.  If you have sent me a box I am afraid that it will not get here until everything spoils as the rail road from Aquia Creek has so much to do to keep us in provisions that they will not cary boxes and the roads are so bad that the Quarter Master will not send the teams after them. . . . I weigh 165 lbs, am rugged as a bear, all but my teeth.  They bother me some. . . .

---Horatio Nelson Taft of Washington, DC writes in his journal about the furor in the Senate over the question of raising Negro troops:

A little excitement in the Senate for the past day or two. A motion to expel Senator Saulsbury of Delaware for disorderly conduct on the floor was postponed today upon his making an apology. The Bill in the House to authorize the raising of Negro Regiments for the War creates much excitement there and the House did not adjourn yesterday, but sat all night and adjourned this morning without coming to a vote upon the question.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

January 27, 1863

January 27, 1863:  Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker assumes command of the Army of the Potomac.  Reactions to his appointment are varied.  Gen. Meade knows that Hooker is a good battlefield commander, but doubts his abilities to lead a large organization.  Darius Couch believes his appointment to be a mistake that Lincoln would regret.  Others consider Hooker “inordinately vain” and “entirely unscrupulous.”  One artillery officer doubts his tactical prowess.  His headquarters has been described as being always a combination of “barroom and brothel.”  Others doubted his organizational ability—and this was a crucial point—since the Army of the Potomac was in an organizational shambles, from logistics to the structure of the units, from rations down to medical resources.  Hooker immediately rids the army of the troublesome officers most likely to challenge his authority, including Gen. Franklin and Gen. “Baldy” Smith, both of whom had been very critical of Burnside.

---The Richmond Daily Dispatch prints an editorial that acknowledges the superiority of the North in maritime activity, while also noting that the North’s seagoing commerce relied upon Southern resources---raw materials like cotton as a lucrative cargo, along with oak, pine, pine tar, and hemp---which were now denied them.  Moreover, the Dispatch wonders why England, in a chance to subdue forever America’s martitime ascendancy, does not come into the war on the side of the South:

The nerves and sinews of that maritime power which threatened to overwhelm the earth have been abruptly sundered in the dissolution of the Union. The land which furnished Yankeedom the great staples of its commerce, which furnished it the fishing bounties that trained its seaman, and even the very live oak, pine, tar, and hemp that equipped its ships, has been lost forever to the United States. It must hereafter give up its proud ambition of being a first-rate naval and commercial power. No wonder that it puts forth such gigantic efforts in this war. Those efforts are for self- preservation, over more than for Southern subjugation. The latter is now sought as a means to an end, and that end is, to keep itself on the map of the world. It is astonishing that England, which sees and knows the[s]e facts, statedly and perseveringly maintain the position of us [so?] called neutrality, and deliberately incur the hazard of a restoration of her old rival to the capacity of inflicting upon her at a future period the ruin of her commercial and naval ascendancy.

---In Bloomfield, Missouri, The 68th Missouri Militia runs a raid on a Rebel base there, capturing 52 prisoners, 70 horses with equipments, and over a hundred muskets. 

---A small naval flotilla of Union vessels, led by Capt. Worden (of Monitor fame) on the ironclad USS Montauk, steams upriver on the Great Ogeechee River in Georgia, and attack Fort McAllister, near Savannah.  After several hours’ bombardment, the Yankee ships move back downstream, unable to do any significant damage to the fort.

---In France’s bid to subdue Mexico, a French flotilla bombards Acapulco, Mexico, and the naval facilities there.

---Henry Adams, son and secretary to Charles Francis Adams, Sr., American ambassador in London, writes to his brother Charles, Jr., an officer in the U.S. Cavalry serving in Virginia.  Henry cites the political unrest in England which may be decisive in keeping Britain out of the war:

I went last night to a meeting of which I shall send you a report; a democratic and socialist meeting, most threatening and dangerous to the established state of things; and assuming a tone and proportions that are quite novel and alarming in this capital. And they met to notify Government that “they would not tolerate” interference against us. I can assure you this sort of movement is as alarming here as a slave insurrection would be in the South, and we have our hands on the springs that can raise or pacify such agitators, at least as regards our own affairs, they making common cause with us. I never quite appreciated the “moral influence” of American democracy, nor the cause that the privileged classes in Europe have to fear us, until I saw how directly it works. At this moment the American question is organizing a vast mass of the lower orders in direct contact with the wealthy. They go our whole platform and are full of the “rights of man.” The old revolutionary leaven is working steadily in England. You can find millions of people who look up to our institutions as their model and who talk with utter contempt of their own system of Government. Within three months this movement has taken a development that has placed all our enemies on the defensive; has driven Palmerston to sue for peace and Lord Russell to proclaim a limited sympathy. I will not undertake to say where it will stop, but were I an Englishman I should feel nervous. . . . There are few of the thickly populated districts of England where we have not the germs of an organisation that may easily become democratic as it is already antislavery. With such a curb on the upper classes, I think they will do little more harm to us.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

January 26, 1863

January 26, 1863:  On this  date, President Lincoln assigns Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker to command of the Army of the Potomac.  This assignment is accompanied by this letter:

Executive Mansion,
Washington, January 26, 1863.

Major General Hooker:

I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appear to me to be sufficient reasons. And yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which, I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and a skilful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm. But I think that during Gen. Burnside’s command of the Army, you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country, and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes, can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The government will support you to the utmost of it’s ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the Army, of criticising their Commander, and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can, to put it down. Neither you, nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army, while such a spirit prevails in it.

And now, beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy, and sleepless vigilance, go forward, and give us victories.

Yours very truly,

Major General Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker

---Col. Rutherford B. Hayes, of the Union army, delighted that his wife and two sons have joined him at camp in West Virginia for a while, writes a quick note home to his mother:

Camp Reynolds, West Virginia, January 25, 1863.

Dear Mother: — Lucy with Birch and Webb arrived here last night safe and sound. We shall enjoy the log-cabin life very much — the boys are especially happy, running about where there is so much new to be seen. … I write merely to relieve anxiety about the new soldiers. — Love to all.



---In the Caribbean Sea, south of San Domingo, the CSS Alabama captures the steamer Golden Rule.  With no paperwork to support its captain’s claim that the cargo belonged to neutral parties, the Golden Rule is put to the torch after captain and crew are taken prisoner aboard the Rebel raider.

Friday, January 25, 2013

January 25, 1863

January 25, 1863: In Washington, Burnside has been simmering overnight as Lincoln consults his cabinet and Gen. Halleck about Burnside's demand. Halleck is reluctant to relieve Burnside, and Lincoln is aware of Hooker's treasonous talk. But after Burnside had presented his list of officers to be sacked, he then submitted his resignation. Today, President Lincoln decides to accept it:
Numbers 20.

Washington, January 25, 1863.

I. The President of the United States had directed:
   1. That Major General A. E. Burnside, at this own request, be relieved from command of the Army of the potomac.
   2. That Major General E. V. Sumner, at his own request, be relieved from duty in the Army of the Potomac.
   3. That Major General W. B. Franklin be relieved from duty in the Army of the Potomac. 
   4. That Major General J. Hooker be assigned to the command of the Army of the Potomac.
II. The officers relieved as above will report in person to the Adjutant-General of the Army.

By order of the Secretary of War:
Assistant Adjutant-General.
Gen. Burnside, in his famous whiskers, is at least relieved of command at his request.

---Sec. of the Navy, Gideon Welles, writes in his journal concerning the appointment of Joseph Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac:
There is a change of commander of the Army of the Potomac. Burnside relinquishes to Hooker. I hope the change may be beneficial, but have apprehensions. The President asked me about the time of the Second Battle of Bull Run, when Pope was to leave and McClellan was out of favor: "Who can take command of this army? Who is there among all these generals?" The address to me was unexpected, and without much consideration I named Hooker. The President looked approvingly, but said, "I think as much as you or any other man of Hooker, but - I fear he gets excited," looking around as he spoke. Blair, who was present, said he is too great a friend of John Barleycorn.

—The state legislature of New Jersey has the task of filling an empty Senate seat until March, and they appoint—in an act of defiance toward the Lincoln government—James Walter Wall, who has just spent several weeks as a prisoner in Fort Lafayette because of activities pro-Confederate and treasonous. The Richmond Daily Dispatch gets wind of this event, and notes that the Democrats did this in spite of Mr. Wall’s protest that he did not want it.

—Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts and a delegation of abolition-minded folks from Boston call upon President Lincoln to admonish him on the subject of the Proclamation: it does not do enough.

—Col. Elisha Franklin Paxton, a Virginian serving in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, writes home to his wife, admonishing her on the subject of running their farm, and about his illness there in the army camp:
Camp Winder, January 25, 1863.

I spent yesterday in bed, and feel to-day like getting back into it. Whilst I have not lost any time from sickness since I last left home, I have been often unwell and compelled to lie in bed for a day or two. A few days’ quiet generally relieves me, but exposure and irregular living generally bring it on again. . . .

. . . If my work here is well done, it will occupy my whole time. I should like to fill my place here, so as to leave it with some credit to myself. To do this will leave me but little time for matters on the farm. So you must be housekeeper, overseer, man of all business, and everything. You may as well learn now, and if you will devote your mind to it you will have no trouble. With such assistance as you can get from Matt and your father, you will be able to get along very well.

When I was lying in bed I half wished that I might get sick, so that I might get home for a little while; but I think my disease is destined to take an unfavorable turn so as to deprive me of that pleasure and keep me in camp.

Give my love to little Matthew and Galla, and tell them I say they must be good boys and do everything you tell them. How I wish that I could be with you again! I hope the day may not be far distant. This hope is the last thing with which I wish to part. Now, darling, good-bye. Write often.

(Col. Paxton shortly gets his "wish" for his illness to turn worse, and soon is furloughed home for a number of weeks to recover.)

Harper’s Weekly, the most popular weekly paper in the North, does a story on some of the first black regiments: the 1st and 2nd Louisiana Native Guards, raised in New Orleans. Most of the men in these regiments were free mulattoes of the city, and they officered their own regiment with "black" officers, a practice that was not followed with the black regiments raised later in the war. But the educated and mostly middle-class officers of these two regiments were an exception to the rule:
It is now some five months since General Butler’s attention was called, by certain free colored men in New Orleans, to the fact that they held commissions from Governor Moore, of Louisiana, as duly enrolled officers of the Confederate army, and requesting to transfer their services to the United States. General Butler, with that keen perception for which he is so remarkable, at once saw the bearings of this important matter, granted the request of his applicants, and issued his order mustering the regiment into our service, under the command of Colonel (then Lieutenant-Colonel) Spencer H. Stafford, one of his aids-de-camp.

Although ready and anxious for a brush with the enemy, that opportunity has not yet been afforded them. . . .

"You see my men can work, Sir, though people say they can’t fight," said the Colonel, triumphantly. "We don’t trouble our heads much about transportation. Put me down in a forest with those same fellows, and I’ll build you a city; for I have every useful trade represented among them."

At this moment a Captain came up to the Colonel, saluted him very respectfully, and, after receiving his order, went off.

"I understood you, Colonel," said I, "that all your line officers were colored men: there goes one, at any rate, who is white." The Colonel turned to me with a sarcastic smile:

"And do you really think him white? Well you may, Sir; but that man is a ‘negro’—one who carries the so-called curse of African blood in his veins."

I was literally amazed. Often as my senses had been deceived in this matter, they never had been so completely before. This officer, Captain E. Davis, of Company A, was a fine-looking young man, not unlike General M’Clellan in mould of features, with light blue eyes, ruddy complexion, soft, silky hair, and a splendid mustache, of a sandy color, nearly approaching red. It would have defied the most consummate expert in Niggerology, by the aid of the most powerful microscope, to discover the one drop of African blood in that man’s veins. Still there it was upon the record against him.

Louisiana Native Guards Infantry disembarking on campaign in Louisiana


Line officers of the Louisiana Native Guards Regiments


Thursday, January 24, 2013

January 24, 1863

January 24, 1863:  Gen. John C. Pemberton, the Confederate commander at Vicksburg, writes to his superior, Gen. Joseph Johnston, about Grant’s recent moves and reveals Pemberton’s obvious anxiety about his vulnerable position:

Vicksburg, January 24, 1863.

General Johnston, Chattanooga, Tenn.:

Enemy in full force again opposite the city, with indications of attempting to force his way below. This necessarily separates my command. Must have large force at Warrenton. Cannot place troops at Meridian without weakening this place. Book captured from Yankee colonel, killed yesterday, says Vicksburg must be taken. If necessary, will send his whole force; also states canal cut across. Statement says Sherman's corps numbers 20,000. Morgan's regiments greater. Supposing the same strength, the number is 40,000.

Unidentified Confederate soldier armed with a Sharps rifle
---Henry Adams, son of the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, writes of the effect of the Emancipation Proclamation:

The Emancipation Proclamation has done more for us here than all our former victories and all our diplomacy. It is creating an almost convulsive reaction in our favor all over this country. The London Times furious and scolds like a drunken drab. Certain it is, however, that public opinion is very deeply stirred here and finds expression in meetings, address to President Lincoln, deputations to us, standing committees to agitate the subject and to affect opinion, and all the other symptoms of a great popular movement peculiarly unpleasant to the upper classes here because it rests altogether on the spontaneous action of the laboring classes and has a pestilent squint at sympathy with republicanism. But the Times is on its last legs and has lost its temper. They say it always does lose its temper when it finds such a feeling too strong for it, and its next step will be to come round and try to guide it. We are much encouraged and in high spirits. If only you at home don't have disasters, we will give such a checkmate to the foreign hopes of the rebels as they never yet have had . . .

---Capt. William Jefferson Halsey, a company commander in the 11th New Jersey Infantry, writes home to his wife about the experience of the Mud March:

The last I wrote you we were just about leaving for a fight and . . . it came on to rain and the wagon trains got stuck in the mud and we could not make any advance and we have returnedto ouir old campand shall stay for some time as the roads are in a terrible condition.  I write these few lines to let you know that I am well and that I stood the hard march through the rain and mud well. . . .

---George Templeton Strong, of New York City, writes in his journal, worried about his friend FitzJohn Porter, who had just been cashiered out of the army for his role at Second Bull Run---and worried about the North’s lack of moral fiber and commitment to the national cause:

Ellie not home yet. . . . She’s disgusted at the fate that has befallen our poor friend Fitz-John Porter---and no wonder.  But that affair makes no great stir.  Opposition men try to give it a political color, but it won’t do.  He was tried by West Point officers; many of the witnesses against him were of the same clannish corps.  He had no political position that I ever heard of. . . . It’s a sad business.  Right or wrong, we lost what we took to be one of our most reliable men. . . .

The army makes little progress.  That’s bac.  But far worse is the fact that Northern dirt-eaters grow more insolent and shameless every day, here, in New Jersey, in Illinois, and everywhere else, and that there is no national virility anywhere sufficient to intimidate them.  Their last dodge, in this city, is to sow distrust of government paper among tradespeople and mechanics. . . .

I begin to doubt whether the Northern people, with so large a percentage of false, cowardly, despicable sympathizers with Rebellion now prepared to intrigue against our national life, to bow down to the bullies of the South, and to uphold nigger-breeding as the noblest of duties, can be saved, or is worth the trouble of saving.  The most barbarous, brutal Mississippian now in arms against us is a demigod compared with Vallandigham and Fernando Wood and Winthrop Chandler and others*, just as the wold is nobler than the mongrel cur.

*Clement Vallandigham, an Ohio Congressman who is a peace Democrat and openly sympathetic with the South; Fernando Wood, Copperhead mayor of New York City who advocated NYC’s secession and becoming a neutral city-state at the outset of the war.

---In a similarly gloomy vein, Horatio Nelson Taft, a clerk in the Patent Office in Washington, mulls over his own doubts and worries about the country:

I cannot imagine where we are drifting to as a Nation. An immense Army and (I may almost say) nobody competent to command it. A country with inexhaustable resources and (I may almost say again) nobody competent to direct and apply its energies. In the present fearful crisis, we have realy no Talented Statesman, no public Men (who are up to the “times”) directing the affairs of the Nation, no Military genius to direct our great “Army of the Potomac,” and the army itself is now melting away by resignations of officers, and desertions, at a fearful rate.

---A New York Times correspondent writes from the Mississippi theatre, casting doubt upon the need or value of McClernand’s campaign against Arkansas Post and Ft. Hindman and, in the process, drawing an unflattering (and comical) portrait of Arkansas and Arkansans in particular:

Hence I think that, although the glory of our arms may have been augmented by the capture of this point, our material interests have not been proportionably advanced. So long as the Post was in the rebel possession, it kept some five or six thousand of the enemy out of mischief; they were neither hanging Union men, or shooting innocent passengers on steamboats, as in the case of the Gladiator. They simply staid at the Post, and did the country no worse service than to enjoy themselves in the true Arkansas style — vis.: playing poker, drinking whisky and whittling each other up with bowie-knives.

It was, I think, on the whole, a somewhat unkind and uncalled-for move on the part of Gen. MCCLERNAND to invade this State. She has never done the Union cause any particular damage since the breaking out of the war. Those few of her gallant sons that have enlisted into the rebel service, have invariably run away at or just before the first fire in every battle, as the records of Pea Ridge, Wilson’s Creek, and other historic fields will show. Even that oleaginous poet, PIKE, became disgusted at the universel poltroonery displayed by his fellow Arkansians, and, with a view of getting into more creditable company, put himself at the head of a party of Indians, and went forth to tomahawk and scalp the lovers of the Union. The best way for the Government to deal with Arkansas, is to export into her borders a few thousand barrels of whisky, a hundred thousand or so eighteen inch bowie knives, and then pay no further attention to her. Her sons, engaged in lynching, hunting runaway ” niggers,” getting or rather keeping drunk and stabbing each other in the back, will care as little whether there is one Confederacy or two, as they do relative to the composition and number of Saturn’s rings or Jupiter’s satellites.

---Sarah Morgan, of Baton Rouge, writes in her journal of her eldest sibling, her half-brother Philip, who is in Federal-occupied New Orleans---and is apparently a Union man---who offers she and her mother and sisters shelter in his home:

During this time we have heard incidentally of Brother; of his having taken the oath of allegiance —which I am confident he did not do until Butler’s October decree — of his being a prominent Union man, of his being a candidate for the Federal Congress, and of his withdrawal; and finally of his having gone to New York and Washington, from which places he only returned a few weeks since. That is all we ever heard. A very few people have been insolent enough to say to me, “Your brother is as good a Yankee as any.” My blood boils as I answer, “Let him be President Lincoln if he will, and I would love him the same.” And so I would. Politics cannot come between me and my father’s son. What he thinks right, is right, for him, though not for me. If he is for the Union, it is because he believes it to be in the right, and I honor him for acting from conviction, rather than from dread of public opinion. If he were to take up the sword against us to-morrow, Miriam and I, at least, would say, “If he thinks it his duty, he is right; we will not forget he is our father’s child.” And we will not. From that sad day when the sun was setting for the first time on our father’s grave, when the great, strong man sobbed in agony at the thought of what we had lost, and taking us both on his lap put his arms around us and said, “Dear little sisters, don’t cry; I will be father and brother, too, now,” he has been both. He respects our opinions, we shall respect his. I confess myself a rebel, body and soul. Confess? I glory in it! Am proud of being one; would not forego the title for any other earthly one! . . . Brother may differ. What then? Shall I respect, love him less? No! God bless him! Union or Secession, he is always my dear, dear Brother, and tortures could not make me change my opinion.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 23, 1863

January 23, 1863:  Gen. Burnside, incensed with the disloyalty and insubordination of several of his generals, on this night issues orders relieving a number of them from service in the Army, and incredible step to take, considering how many there are on the orders.  He asks Lincoln permission to see him late at night, to get the President’s signature on this document:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, January 23, 1863-8.50 p.m.
President of the United States:
I have prepared some very important orders, and I want to see you before issuing them. Can I see you alone if I am at the White House after midnight? I must be back by 8 o'clock to-morrow morning.

Major-General, Commanding.


I. General Joseph Hooker, major-general of volunteers and brigadier-general U. S. Army, having been guilty of unjust and unnecessary criticisms of the actions of his superior officers, and of the authorities, and having, by the general tone of his conversation, endeavored to create distrust in the minds of officers who have associated with him, and having, by omissions and otherwise, made reports and statements which were calculated to create incorrect impressions, and for habitually speaking in disparaging terms of other officers, is hereby dismissed the service of the United States as a man unfit to hold an important commission during a crisis like the present, when so much patience, charity, confidence, consideration, and patriotism are due from every soldier, in the field. This order is issued subject to the approval of the President of the United States.

II. Brigadier General W. T. H. Brooks, commanding First Division, Sixth Army Corps, for complaining of the policy of the Government, and for using language tending to demoralize his command, is, subject to the approval of the President, dismissed from the military service of the United States.

III. Brigadier General John Newton, commanding Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, and Brigadier General John Cochrane, commanding First Brigade, Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, for going to the President of the United States with criticisms upon the plans of their commanding officer, are, subject to the approval of the President, dismissed from the military service of the United States.

IV. It being evident that the following named officers can be of no further service to this army, they are hereby relieved from duty, and will report, in person, without delay, to the Adjutant-General, U. S. Army: Major General W. B. Franklin, commanding left grand division; Major General W. F. Smith, commanding Sixth Corps; Brigadier General Samuel D. Sturgis, commanding Second Division, Ninth Corps; Brigadier General Edward Ferrero, commanding Second Brigade, Second Division, Ninth Army Corps; Brigadier General John Cochrane, commanding First Brigade, Third Division, Sixth Corps; Lieutenant Colonel J. H. Taylor, assistant adjutant-general, right grand division.
By command of Major General A. E. Burnside:

Assistant Adjutant-General

It is likewise astonishing that Burnside was willing to take a fast night-time trip to the capital on this errand when his army was woefully mired in the Virginia mud and badly damaged. Needless to say, Lincoln would not sign the orders.

---There has been skirmishing this day in Johnson County, East Tennessee, between a unit of Confederate troops under a Col. Folk and some local Tories irregulars---Unionists---resulting in the Unionists being chased out of the vicinity after taking some losses.

---A Union soldier named Jenkin Lloyd Jones, an artilleryman, notes in his journal the behavior of some soldiers:

Spent the day in darning stockings. Listened to Brownlow read in tent. But when night came there was a scene at once ludicrous and deplorable. Music was started in the 4th Platoon tent; Parker with his fiddle, Bill Bailey with the banjo, Day’s tambourine, Byness with the bones, and Goodman’s clarinet. But Quartermaster had brought some bottled whiskey into camp and it broke up in a drunken row.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 22, 1863

January 22, 1863:  The Mud March (cont.) – As the morning breaks, the rain continues unabated.  All wagon trains are bogged down, artillery is immovable, and the men---the ones who are able to march on---turn into bands of marauders ransacking supply wagons anchored in the mud.  Fighting (among the soldiers) breaks out everywhere.  Gen Hooker, beside himself with rage---and likely drunk, too, as are most officers who can get their hands on liquor---openly condemns the Government, and says that the nation needs a dictator and that he willing to take the job.  Finally, toward the end of the day, Gen. Burnside cancels the campaign,  but the soldiers are still stuck. 
---Horatio Nelson Taft writes in his journal about the dreadful storm lashing the army:
Washington Wednesday Jan’y 21st 1863
No snow storm but a cold, windy, rainy day. All last night it seemed to pour down, and as the wind drove the rain against my window I could not help thinking of the thousands of poor Soldiers who must be lying on the ground with only a partial shelter from the storm, and had I been as young and vigorous as I was twenty years ago I should have felt almost guilty as I drew the covering around me in my warm bed, so comfortable and secure from the hardships and dangers which I should have felt it my duty to share in the present crisis.

Monday, January 21, 2013

January 21, 1863

January 21, 1863:  The Mud March -- The Union Army of the Potomac is marching on what was supposed to be a quick move west, upriver, in order to cross and get down behind the left flank of Lee’s Confederates, thus forcing the Rebels to fight on the tactical offensive against superior numbers.  However, it seems that everything that could go wrong is going wrong.  The winds continued to rise, and rain came down in cascades, steadily increasing, running in rivers down the roadways, and soaking every soldier to the skin, with temperatures just above freezing.  Wagons and caissons begin to sink into the axle-deep mud, famous in Virginia.  Men try to “corduroy” the road with logs, but the wood just disappears in the gravy-like mire.  The weather slows down the pace of the army to a crawl.  Gen. Burnside had calculated that he would have a 48-hour lead on Lee, and this margin is disintegrating fast.  Wagons, especially the large ones that carry the pontoons for bridging, are mired down, and teamsters are busy hitching up several teams just to get one wagon free, and by afternoon, both stock and men are drained of strength.  Entire regiments were put to the ropes to haul a cannon or wagon out of the mire---most of the time, to no avail.  Some mules and horses sink so far down into the mud, they are shot to end their suffering, since there is no way to haul them out.  One report indicates that over 150 animals are lost; the surviving remainder are carefully pulled out of the mud and driven to higher ground to save their lives.  Some animals, and even a few men, are literally buried alive in the everlasting mud.  Burnside sees that he does not have enough pontoons to cross, and so orders the army to make camp as night descends.  The vast majority of the units simply collapse where they are, with no tents, no fires, and no food.  No one can move.  The rain continues without let-up, in a monsoon-like deluge.
The Mud March, from a sketch by Alfred Waud
Maj. Gen. William “Baldy” Smith sends a dispatch to his superior, Gen. Franklin, concerning the impossibility of crossing the river before tomorrow:
JANUARY 21, [1863]-7.40 [a.m.]
It is not possible to get these boats into the river so that we can make a fight to-day, and the enemy will have all night to concentrate against us. There are yet no boats ready to put in the water, and they are all along the road for 2 miles. The artillery is none of it in position, and not all here, the road blocked by pontoons. I think the state of the weather should be reported at once.

W. F. S. [WM. F. SMITH,]
Map showing the "Mud March" Campaign route, and Lee's moves to block the Federals
General Lee, in the meantime, has good intelligence of Burnside’s move, and anticipates it by sending Georg Pickett’s entire division to cover Banks Ford, effectively shutting the door on Burnside’s planned crossing.  Pickett’s men, ironically, are able to march on macadamized roads in relative comfort, and are set up and dug well before nightfall, ready to contest the Federal crossing.
---General Halleck writes to Gen. Grant, giving him “temporary” control of Arkansas as part of his military district, so that Grant can use both banks of the Mississippi River as he revives the Vicksburg Campaign.
---Naval Action in the Gulf -- Just off of Galveston, Texas, the U.S. Navy consists of two sailing vessels---the 8-gun USS Morning Light, and the converted blockade runner, the USS Velocity.  In the early morning, with their steam well up, two cotton-clad steamers dash out of the Galveston harbor---the CSS Uncle Ben and CSS Bell.  Loaded with Texas infantrymen, the two steamers are able to overtake their fleeing prey.  In the two hour battle that ensues, the Yankee ships fire broadsides that are mostly absorbed by the cotton bales.  But the Rebel steamers close the gap, close enough for the Texas riflemen to open fire with vicious effect, completely clearing the decks, and making it impossible for the Yankee sailors to approach their guns to work them.  Both Federal ships finally surrender, in a rare Confederate victory at sea---even if gained by unorthodox tactics.
---The Richmond Daily Dispatch publishes an editorial on Pennsylvania Congressman Thaddeus Stevens’ plan to recruit blacks wholesale for the army.  The Southerners (in addition to most Northerners) do not believe that the Yankees will get “Cuffy” to fight, and the “contrabands” will find themselves in a tough dilemma.  We note the off-hand racist assumptions of black character and motivations:
Poor Cuff is placed in a most awkward predicament.  There has been nothing like it since the days of the trial of witches by the ordeal of water.  If the person accused swam she was a witch, and was burnt for skill in aquatics.  If she sank she was no witch, and was only drowned.  So cuff must enlist or be shot by the Yankees.  If he enlist, he is to expect no quarter from his former masters, for most assuredly none will be given.–He will have already forfeited his life by bearing arms against the State.  If taken, he will be hanged; if not taken, he stands a pretty good chance of being shot; if he escape, the Yankees will bring him back again, and keep on trying him until they get him finished at last.  Here is a very bright prospect for poor Cuff, and it cannot fall to make him more in love than ever with the Yankees.
---On this date, the New York Times re-prints an editorial from the Richmond Whig, the newspaper most critical of Davis’s administration, wherein the editors protest the absence of the rule of law in the Confederate government using “impressment” to sieze foodstuffs for the army:
The President, in his message, apologizes indirectly for the seizure of private property, by what he calls the “power of impressment,” by alleging the insufficiency of transportation. He recommends that the exercise of this power be guarded by judicious provisions against perversion or abuse, and be under due regulation of law. This is all very well, but it would have been far more consistent with a Government of freedom and law if, before exercising this tyrannical power, the right to do so had been obtained from the law-making authority. There has existed no necessity for its exercise at all. It is a slander upon the people of Virginia to assert that such necessity has existed. As a general rule they have willingly sold their produce to the Government, at the Government’s own price — even when that price was half the market price. . . .
One would suppose that common sense would dictate, that a Government like ours, dependent for its very existence upon the affection and confidence of the country, would spare no means to secure that confidence and affection. But, so far from this, the disposition seems to exist to harass and alienate the people by every species of petty tyranny. This has been especially the cause with respect to the great agricultural population, on which, at last, rests the sole hope for the national salvation. Nothing but their whole-souled devotion to the cause could have made them submit in quiet to the violation of law and wanton invasion of their rights. It is difficult to assign a reason for this absurd and extraordinary policy. Possibly the solution may be found in the vast member of Jews and Yankees, who, having no sympathy for our people, and no regard for their feelings and interest, have insinuated themselves into the management of our affairs.
---Julia LeGrand, of New Orleans, bitterly notes in her journal the new Federal policy in the city---that all openly avowed “enemies” of the United States (i.e., any dis-hard Confederates) are required to leave the city, to be transported by steamer to the Confederate lines, by order of the Federal provost marshal, Clarke:
January 21st [1863]. The registered enemies went out to-day by Government permission. No man whose age subjects him to the conscription law in the Confederacy was allowed to go. Women went without their husbands, hoping that afterwards they might be able to run the blockade; they may die in this attempt; dread time of anxiety. About three hundred went out, some sick and feeble had to be carried on board the small steamer. Clarke, more generous than Butler, allowed a few provisions to be taken. Mrs. Ogden has gone to join her husband, a major at Vicksburg. Her mother had to be carried— she may die on the way, for the United States steamer only conducts them to the Confederate lines, and transportation thence may be difficult and fatiguing. The poor lady, however, wants to see her son, who has been in the Confederate army long separated from her. One old lady displayed the Confederate flag in her bosom, saying that she was going out to die under the bars and stars. I hope further opportunity will be granted to the enemies to go out, as Ginnie and myself are anxious to go as soon as we can. There is some fear expressed here by the enemies lest their friends outside may take them for Unionists, because they do not go now. A Mrs. Brown of this city, by much imploring, received permission from Clarke, the provost marshal, for her husband to accompany her. Clarke, it is said, is a really kind person—we are sorry that he is soon to leave his office, for kind Federals are not indeed as plenty as blackberries. . . . It makes me miserable that men can do such deeds, miserable to think of the suffering they entail—more miserable to know that in thousands of hearts each day a hate is gathering volume and intensity, which will live, actuate and work like a living principle. . . . I mourn over evil deeds because I realize so fully the doctrine of cause and effect; each one lives and acts as a new cause to other effects. The evil doer strengthens the bad principle within him; he starts it into life in another; these others act upon the new sense within, and so make new landmarks in their moral natures, which lead on to other evil. Children inherit what has grown into propensities in their progenitors, and so the wave—the blessed wave of civilization is forever borne back.

She goes on, shifting topics to speculate on the slaves, and her changed views on abolition and the characteristics of the negro race, with surprising vehemence, considering her high level of education:

I got angry with my irons which would smut my muslins, and then got angry with myself for having been angry—finally divided the blame, giving a part to Julie Ann for running away and leaving me to do her work, and by her thefts, with less money wherewithal to procure others to do for me. If Julie’s condition was bettered, if she had been made a higher being by the sort of freedom she has chosen, I could not find it in my conscience to regret her absence; but I hear of her, she is a degraded creature, living a vicious life, and we tried so hard to make her good and honest. I once was as great an abolitionist as any in the North—that was when my unthinking fancy placed black and white upon the same plane. My sympathies blinded me, and race and character were undisturbed mysteries to me. But my experience with negroes has altered my way of thinking and reasoning. As an earnest of sincerity given even to my own mind, it was when we owned them in numbers that I thought they ought to be free, and now that we have none, I think they are not fit for freedom. . . . White men, left free from degrading cares, generally struggle up to something higher—not so the black man. They have no cares but physical ones and will not have for generations to come, if ever. The free black man is scarcely a higher animal, and not near so innocent as the unbridled horse. He has sensation, but his sensibility is not well awakened; he does not love or respect the social ties. Never yet have I met with one instance to prove the contrary. His wild instincts are yet moving his coarse blood; he is servile if mastered, and brutal if licensed; he can never be taught the wholesome economy which pride of character supports in a white man; he can not, either by force or persuasion, be imbued with a reverence for truth. What place is there in the scale of humanity but one of subjection for such a race?