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.

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