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?

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