January 19, 1863: On this date, the day in Virginia opens with sunshine, dry roads, low water in the rivers, and fairly temperate air. Gen. Burnside is delighted, and moves ahead with his planned flank march. Burnside also possesses intelligence that some of Lee’s troops have been sent down to North Carolina to help in a winter campaign; he therefore considers the time to be ripe. Burnside ignores the protests of Gen. Franklin and Hooker both. He issues orders for Gen. Sumner’s Grand Division to make a crossing at Fredericksburg as a diversion toward Marye’s Heights on Jan. 21, and that Franklin and Hooker, each with their Grand Divisions (four corps), will start on the march upriver for the flanking movement on Jan. 22. Meanwhile, Gen. Franz Sigel, with a Reserve Grand Division, will move down to Falmouth to spread out and take the place of Franklin and Hooker in the Union line opposite Fredericksburg. But on this evening, the weather suddenly turns bitter with high winds.
---Reports come in that the USS Sagamore has captured, near Key West, two blockade runners loaded with military supplies and munitions, bound for the Confederacy.
---Reports from England, according to the New York Times, indicate that three ironclad vessels are under construction in Laird Shipyards in Liverpool. The article indicates that although China is given out as the destination for the largest of these ships, “there is little question that she is bound upon a piratical expedition, and it is hinted that [Captain Matthew] Maury (now in Liverpool) is to have the command.”
---In response to a letter of admiration and support from “the Working Men of Manchester, England,” Pres. Lincoln writes his own letter in response, thanking them for their sentiments, even amidst the hardship caused by the cotton scarcity and the blockade:
Through the action of our disloyal citizens, the working-men of Europe have been subjected to severe trials, for the purpose of forcing their sanction to that attempt. Under the circumstance, I cannot but regard your decisive utterances upon the question as an instance of sublime Christian heroism which has not been surpassed in any age or in any country. It is indeed an energetic and inspiring assurance of the inherent power of truth and of the ultimate and universal triumph of justice, humanity, and freedom. I do not doubt that the sentiments, you have expressed will be sustained by your great nation; and, on the other hand, I have no hesitation in assuring you that they will excite admiration, esteem, and the most reciprocal feelings of friendship among the American people.
---Kate Morgan, of Baton Rouge, writes in her journal, still suffering from the abrasions she received when being thrown from a horse a number of weeks ago, and thus forced to lie in her bed day after day:
Monday, January 19th.
That blessed Mr. Halsey like an angel of mercy sent me “Kate Coventry” yesterday, just when I was pining far a bonne bouche of some kind, I did not care what, whether a stick of candy or an equally palatable book. It is delightful to have one’s wishes realized as soon as they are made. I think it rather caused me to relent towards Mr. Halsey; I did not feel half so belligerent as I did just the Sunday before. At all events, I felt well enough to go down in the evening when he called again, though I had been too indisposed to do so on a previous occasion. (O Sarah!)
Wheeled into the parlor, there I beheld not my friend alone, but several other individuals whose presence rather startled me. I found myself undergoing the terrors of an introduction to a Colonel Locke, and to my unspeakable surprise, Major Buckner was claiming the privilege of shaking hands with me, and Colonel Steadman was on the other side, and—was that Mr. Halsey? O never! The Mr. Halsey I knew was shockingly careless of his dress, never had his hair smooth; let his beard grow as it would, and wore a most ferocious slouched hat. This one had taken more than one look at the glass, a thing I should have imagined the other incapable of doing. He had bestowed the greatest care and attention on his dress, had brought his beard within reasonable limits, had combed his hair with the greatest precision, and held lightly in one hand an elegant little cap that I am sure must be provokingly becoming. Why, he was handsome! Ah ça! some mistake, surely, I cried to myself. My Mr. Halsey was not, certainly! . . .
---Corporal James Kendall Hosmer, of the Union Army, writes in his journal, offering some insight into hospital life:
In the next room to the one in which lay the corpse, the floor was covered with pale, sick men. Now they have rough bedsteads, “bunks;” but then there was nothing but the mattress under them, and sometimes only the blankets. One or two attendants, as many as could be spared from the regiment, had the care of the whole; but they were far too few. One poor man was in a sad way, with inflammatory rheumatism, which made it very painful for him to stir; and, at the same time, with dysentery, so that he required to be lifted every few minutes. Pale, forlorn men, away from friends, tended by nurses who have no special interest in them, and are overworked, —crouching, wrapped up in blankets over the fire, or stretched out on a floor. God pity the world if it has sights in it more melancholy than a military hospital! . . .
An entry runs north and south, from which, on each side, open the doors of other sick-rooms, where men with fever and dysentery, with agues, and racking, lung-shattering coughs, lie stretched on mattresses. Here is one with ghastly fever-light in his eyes; there, one pale and hollow-cheeked. Wrapped to the chin in blankets, some are; some parched with the fire of disease,— their buttons and gay dress-coats, the finery in which they used to appear at dress-parade, hanging forlornly overhead.
The nurses, too, look jaded and worn: and no wonder; for, with a dismal contagion, the torpor and weariness in the faces about will communicate itself to the attendants and visitors, and the most cheerful countenance can hardly help becoming forlorn. Our chaplain and colonel (both good, energetic, and useful men) make it part of their daily duty to go to every couch, and befriend the poor fellows lying there; and their visits are the golden hours of the day at the hospital, — waited and prayed for.