Thursday, February 28, 2013

February 27, 1863

February 27, 1863

---Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, one of J.E.B. Stuart’s commanders, writes a report of a raid he made into Yankee-held territory, routing the Federal cavalry he encountered:

Culpeper Court-House, va., February 27, 1863.
    SIR: I have the honor to report that I crossed the Rappahannock River at Kelly's Ford on the 24th instant, on a reconnaissance, with 400 men of my command, consisting of detachments of the First, Second, and Third Regiments Virginia Cavalry, commanded, respectfully, by Colonels [J. H.] Drake, [T. T.] Munford, and Lieutenant-Colonel [William R.] Carter.
     On the 25th, I drove in the enemy's pickets near Hartwood Church, and attacked his reserve and main body. Routed them, and pursued them within 5 miles of Falmouth, to their infantry lines. Killed and wounded many of them. Captured 150 prisoners, including 5 commissioned officers, with all their horses, arms, and equipments. I them withdrew my command slowly, retiring by detachments. Encamped at Morrisville that night, and on the 26 th recrossed the river, and returned to camp with my prisoners. The successive charges were splendidly executed. My loss in killed, wounded, and missing was 14.
Stuart and his troopers on a raid

---Maj. General Sterling Price, CSA, is ordered to be transferred west back to the Trans-Mississippi Departrment under the command of Edmund Kirby-Smith and Theophilus Holmes.  However, he is ordered to leave his Missouri Division with
Gen. Pemberton at Vicksburg.

---The Richmond Daily Dispatch publishes this editorial as a cautionary tale to all Confederate wives: Don’t encourage your husbands to desert.

A solemn warning to wives.

–A correspondent of the Selma Reporter relates a story which should serve as a solemn warning to the wives of soldiers. He says a few weeks ago a soldier was tried and convicted of the crime of desertion, and sentenced to be shot. The day for the execution arrived, and at the appointed hour this brave man, who had fought many battles and endured every kind of hardship, fell a bloody corpse at the hands of his comrades. Upon inquiry it was ascertained he was as true as steel to our cause, and that it was on account of his wife that he deserted. He received a letter from her full of complaints. Looking alone upon the dark side of the picture, she had magnified her troubles and sufferings, and earnestly entreated her husband to return home. He became restless, discontented, unhappy. . . . His solemn oath never to desert troubled him much, and he well knew the crime of desertion had become so frequent in the army it would be punished with death. In this state of perplexity he drew his wife’s letter from his bosom and read it again. . . . His wife, now a widow, know[s] no peace of mind, but is constantly haunted with the thought that her exaggerated representations of her trials and sufferings caused her husband’s death. Let this case be a lesson to all wives and mothers. When you write to the soldier speak words of encouragement; cheer their hearts; fire their souls, and arouse their patriotism. Say nothing that will embitter their thoughts, or swerve them from the path of patriotic duty.

A young, Rebel officer and his family

---Ruffin Thompson, a young Mississippian serving in Gen. Barksdale’s brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia, writes home and includes some sober and surprisingly prescient thoughts about the progress of the war and the isolation of the South:

I suppose when we break up here to commence the campaign that there will be a repetition of the last summer’s work, hard living and hard working life — when? – that the campaign if successful – as it must be – will end the war, I confidently believe. Still, I am prepared to soldier for many a long year to come. Should Lincoln’s Conscript Law – which I hear is passed – be submitted to, there will be no cessation of hostilities till 1865, when a new President will have to be elected. It is folly to look for any aid other than our good right arms and a will that death alone can quench. There never was a people more completely isolated than ours – we need look for no sympathy among the nations of the earth. Our “peculiar institution” makes them all our enemies, actively or passively. They want our cotton and that alone is in our favor. Let us once gain our independence and we may defy the world in arms – we must be a nation of soldiers, and if the opportunity ever offers will repay the cotton-loving, slave hating Briton for his hostile sentiments towards us now. . . .

He also adds some observations about the illicit cross-river trade between Union and Confederate pickets up at the front:

Flags of truce are over nearly every day for one purpose or another. We watch, lately, have had opportunities for exchanging papers, but now we never get any. The pickets say they scarcely ever see a paper, unless perhaps, of a certain class. talking across the river is forbidden by General Lee. The Yankees seem to be very anxious to converse, but we treat them with silent contempt. A system of intercourse has been carried on for sometime by the opposing pickets – it was quite ingenious. Some of our boys would rig a small boat with sails, and when the wind was favorable, put papers and tobacco in, and start her for the other shore. It arrives in a few minutes, and the Yanks start the little voyager back, freighted with papers and coffee. The boat was some two or three feet long, and could carry several pounds. General Barksdale broke it up as soon as he found it out.

---Charles Francis Adams, Sr., the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, writes in a letter home about changing opinions in the United Kingdom:

The anti-slavery feeling has been astonishingly revived by the President’s proclamation and the kindly disposition by the supplies furnished to Lancashire. It is however to be noted that all this manifestation comes from the working and middle classes. The malevolence of the aristocracy continues just as strong as ever.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February 26, 1863

February 26, 1863

---The Cherokee Nation had made an alliance with the Confederate States, and the war was going badly for the Southern armies as well as the civilians in that area. Under command of Gen. James Blunt, a brigade of Unionist Indian troops (mostly Cherokee) crosses back into the Indian Territories. The Cherokee Nation helds a tribal council on the question back on February 4, at the Cherokee capital in Talequah. On Feb. 21, a document was adopted and a vote on this date made it official. The Declaration dissolved the Cherokee alliance with the Confederacy and reaffirmed its loyalty to the United States, it repudiated any tribal members under arms against the United States, and it freed all slaves un Cherokee territory. Many Cherokees were planters and slaveholders. This ordinance also granted citizenship and suffrage to former male slaves. The Cherokee are the first group of slaveholders to voluntarily emancipate their slaves. The Cherokees are still deeply divided, however, and Gen. Stand Watie, in command of a mounted brigade of Cherokee Confederates, is headed with his troops back to Cherokee land.

—Julia LeGrand of New Orleans writes in her journal of a new novel by William P. Thackeray, the great English novelist, and how she loves Thackeray for telling the truth about human beings, especially has her views of reality during the war, and the rascality of people have taught her to think differently:
Thackeray is no favorite here; I find few of my friends here who will even try to comprehend him. To me he is the first of English writers. "Vanity Fair" gave me a great shock. I do not think I could ever have been quite so happy again, after having read that book, even if life had not gone hard with me. It taught me to look under the veil, and I have been looking under it ever since. And my God, what have I not seen! Indeed I do not love the world, but I have met with some really good and pure people. Thackeray’s books are magnificent protests against the social life of England. I wish we had such a man. We would not take our lashing and dissection from a stranger. I sometimes think that even one of us could not tell the whole truth to our country people. They love flattery, it must be confessed. The Northern people have sickened me with boasting. I hope ours will adopt a system of inciting and elevating to a high state of things rather than claiming it without an effort. Let there be truth-telling in all things. Thackeray really holds up a glass to his country-folk, and to humanity at large. He is not popular, because people do not like the real cut of their features.

—Judith White McGuire, of Richmond, writes in her journal of the news and expectations of the Confederate commerce cruisers Alabama and Florida:
26th.—In the city again yesterday. B. improving. The morning papers report firing upon Vicksburg. Several steamers have arrived lately, laden for the Confederacy. Blockade-running seems to be attended with less danger then it was, though we have lately lost a most valuable cargo by the capture of the "Princess Royal." The "Alabama" continues to perform the most miraculous feats, and the "Florida" seems disposed to rival her in brilliant exploits. They "walk the water," capturing every thing in their way, and know no fear, though many vessels are in pursuit.

February 25, 1863

February 26, 1863

---Vicksburg:  Thoroughly wroth at the Confederate capture of the Queen of the West and then the Indianola, Admiral David D. Porter (who usually is hard-pressed to control his rage) does not have any more ironclad gunboats below Vicksburg, and is desperate to strike back at the Rebels and perhaps even recover the Indianola.  With no time to bring down more gunboats, Porter and his men concoct perhaps the unlikeliest hoax of the war.  They begin with an old scow, extend it with logs and, using empty barrels and mud, devise a casemate, deck, smokestacks with even a little smoke coming out from a bit of smoldering tar.  Blackened logs are put in place as “Quaker guns,” and the newly-created Black Terror floats downstream after dark and panic on the eastern shore spreads among the Confederates.  At 300 feet long, she was huge, and much bigger than the 180-foot Queen of the West: this boat was a monster.  The guns on the Vicksburg bluff opened up and, in an amazing stroke of luck, only hit the Terror once, thus preserving the pretense.  The Terror grounds once, but troops from Sherman’s troops push her back out into the stream.  As it approached the location of the partly-sunk Indianola, the Rebel flotilla explodes in a panic, ramming into each other in an effort to get away from the mystery behemoth.  As Brown and his flotilla raced downstream, the Black Terror sticks fast on the western bank.  The Rebel crew of the crippled Indianola spends a tens night, and finally in the morning, in obedience to orders, lights the ship on fire to prevent the Yankees recovering her.  When the fire reaches the magazine, the ship explodes.

---Today, Congress passes the National Banking Act, which establishes a national currency, requires all currency to be backed by actual specie.  This is the beginning of the Federal Reserve System.

---Julia LeGrand of New Orleans writes in her diary of a speech that Pres. Jefferson Davis had made at Jackson, Mississippi to the troops of Pemberton’s department:

Much dissatisfaction was felt here for a time over President Davis’ speech at Jackson. It was partial and addressed wholly to Mississippians, though the army by which he was surrounded was composed of men from all States. The battle of Chickasaw Bayou was fought by Louisianans and Georgians. These men were entitled, even as exiles from home, to kindly mention—but no word of praise, except to Mississippians. The women of Vicksburg were approved because they expressed wishes that the town should be shelled rather than surrendered. . . . I have always felt that Davis was a partisan, rather than a father of his country; a politician rather than a statesman.


Monday, February 25, 2013

February 24, 1863

February 24, 1863

Lt. Commander George Brown, skipper of the USS Indianola, has taken his ironclad gunboat from the mouth of the Red River back upstream to the protection of Federal batteries, since it has become clear that a Rebel flotilla is descending the Red from their base at Alexandria, Louisiana and are pursuing the lone Yankee vessel.  The CSS Webb, along with the captured Queen of the West and two other gunboats, are making good speed to intercept the now-fleeing Indianola.  Brown manages get the Indianola to Grand Gulf, Mississippi by evening.  But soon the CSN flotilla appears, and after a sharp battle, the Indianola is taking on water.  Lt. Cmdr Brown surrenders the Indianola to the Rebels.

USS Indianola




Saturday, February 23, 2013

February 23, 1863

February 23, 1863

Mississippi River Delta (Yazoo) – The Union Navy has finally cleared away most of the obstructions in the Yazoo Pass, the waterway that leads from the Mississippi to the Coldwater River, and on to the Tallahatchie and the Yazoo---and the Yazoo leads all the way down to the dry land along the bluffline behind Vicksburg.  Being able to establish a base there would enable Grant to establish a base from which to attack the city from the landward side.  The expedition is able to go a few miles past the junction with the Coldwater, but later pulls back for safety.  Lt. Col. James Wilson and engineer troops go to work clearing tree overhang and other natural hindrances.  Many miles downstream, the Confederates near Greenville are building a fortress designed as a last-ditch defense against the expected Union incursion.

The intended route of the Union expedition to come in the "back door"

---The New York Times publishes an editorial that speculates about the rumors that Emperor Napoleon III intends to send the French Navy to forcibly open the blockade.  The State Department and several other newspapers argue against this rumor, but the Times points out that the French have not always been forthcoming in their recent relations with the U.S., including the Emperor’s advice to the U.S. to enter into negotiations with the Rebels for peace.

---The poet Walt Whitman, as a volunteer nurse, publishes a report in the New York Times about the military hospitals in Washington, D.C., and the magnitude of the problem with the military wounded and sick:

The military hospitals, convalescent camps, &c. in Washington and its neighborhood sometimes contain over fifty thousand sick and wounded men. Every form of wound, (the mere sight of some of them having been known to make a tolerably hardy visitor faint away,) every kind of malady, like a long procession, with typhoid fever and diarrhœa at the head as leaders, are here in steady motion. The soldier's hospital! how many sleepless nights how many woman's tears, how many long and aching hours and days of suspense, from every one of the Middle, Eastern and Western States, have concentrated here! Our own New-York, in the form of hundreds and thousands of her young men, may consider herself here. . . .

Upon a few of these hospitals I have been almost daily calling as a missionary, on my own account, for the sustenance and consolation of some of the most needy cases of sick and dying men, for the last two months. One has much to learn in order to do good in these places. Great tact is required. These are not like other hospitals. By far the greatest proportion (I should say five-sixths) of the patients are American young men, intelligent, of independent spirit, tender feelings, used to a hardy and healthy life; largely the farmers are represented by their sons—largely the mechanics and workingmen of the cities. Then they are soldiers. All these points must be borne in mind.

People through our Northern cities have little or no idea of the great and prominent feature which these military hospitals and convalescent camps make in and around Washington. There are not merely two or three or a dozen, but some fifty of them, or different degrees of capacity. . . .

A few weeks ago the vast area of the second story of that noblest of Washington buildings, the Patent Office, was crowded close with rows of sick, badly wounded and dying soldiers. They were placed in three very large apartments. I went there several times. It was a strange, solemn and, with all its features of suffering and death, a sort of fascinating sight. I went sometimes at night, to soothe and relieve particular cases; some, I found, needed a little cheering up and friendly consolation at that time, for they went to sleep better afterward. . . .

Many things invite comment, and some of them sharp criticism, in these hospitals. The Government, as I said, is anxious and liberal in its practice toward its sick; but the work has to be left, in its personal application to the men, to hundreds of officials of one grade or another about the hospitals, who are sometimes entirely lacking in the right qualities. There are tyrants and shysters in all positions, and especially those dressed in subordinate authority. Some of the ward doctors are careless, rude, capricious, needlessly strict. . . .

---With the Federal army of Nathaniel Banks about to advance on the fortified Confederate Army positions at Port Hudson on the Mississippi River, young Sarah Morgan of Louisiana finds that she and her family must evacuate Linwood, the plantation home of a friend where they have been living.  She worries about her soldier friends---many of them her beaux---and her future in another state:

Monday, February 23d.

Here goes! News has been received that the Yankees are already packed, ready to march against us at any hour. If I was up and well, how my heart would swell with exultation. As it is, it throbs so with excitement that I can scarcely lie still. Hope amounts almost to presumption at Port Hudson. They are confident that our fifteen thousand can repulse twice the number. Great God!—I say it with all reverence—if we could defeat them! If we could scatter, capture, annihilate them! My heart beats but one prayer—Victory! I shall grow wild repeating it. In the mean time, though, Linwood is in danger. This dear place, my second home; its loved inhabitants; think of their being in such peril! Oh, I shall cry heartily if harm comes to them! But I must leave before. No use of leaving my bones for the Yankees to pick; better sing "Dixie" in Georgia. . . . And no time for adieux! Wonder who will be surprised, who vexed, and who will cry over the unforeseen separation? Not a single "good-bye"! Nothing—except an old brass button that Mr. Halsey gave me as a souvenir in case he should be killed in the coming assault. It is too bad. Ah! Destiny! Destiny! Where do you take us? During these two trying years, I have learned to feel myself a mere puppet in the hands of a Something that takes me here to-day, to-morrow there, always unexpectedly, and generally very unwillingly, but at last leads me somewhere or other, right side up with care, after a thousand troubles and distresses. The hand of Destiny is on me now; where will it lead me?

---General Grenville Dodge, whose division of Federals have been keeping an idea on Confederate operations in northern Mississippi and Alabama, writes to General Grant with key information about the Rebels, how scattered and how dissipated they are, especially at Vicksburg:

CORINTH, MISS., February 23, 1863.
Major General U. S. GRANT,
Opposite Vicksburg: 

SIR: There are some matters south of this that may be of interest to you, and perhaps I may be excused for communicating them direct. They have been sent, part of them, to my immediate commanders. The scouts posted at Mobile, Meridian, and Jackson have sent in long reports, and the substance of those that can be relied upon are about as follows: ‘

1. No troops have come to Pemberton's army since Smith's 10,000 joined him about Christmas.

2. All troops from Mobile up the road, and from Grenada, have gone to Vicksburg and Port Hudson, leaving a few thousand at Mobile, some 600 at Meridian, and two regiments at Jackson, and about three regiments of militia at Grenada. . . . Everything in the shape of cavalry . . .  joined Van Dorn in his move to Tennessee, leaving perhaps a regiment or two north of Grenada, a few at Okolona, and a few companies just south of me. . . . West Mississippi is being entirely stripped of stock, provisions, forage, &c., and everything indicates that they are getting ready for a quick move.

In the last ten days some 3,000 negroes have been pressed and put to work at Columbus, Miss, and one or two points near Meridian, while the great stock of cars and engines at Meridian are being taken east and south. . . .

The trains go loaded from Vicksburg daily with sick and discharged soldiers. They say that they average 12 cars a day. Last week two heavy steamboat engines and the prow to a ram went up the road to Jackson; said to be placed in some boat in the Yazoo.

Deserters and conscripts are flocking into my lines daily, and, so far as the above statements are concerned, they corroborate them. The raking of the entire State of Mississippi for stock and provisions is as vigorously carried on as it was in Tennessee by Bragg. Van Dorn took about 8,000 mounted men and two batteries away with him. He is now at Columbia, Tenn., with Wheeler and Forrest, and Bragg has taken everything that is movable and that his army does not really need south of the Tennessee. He had put the railroad in order from Decatur to Tuscumbia; . . . My forces are on their way to Decatur now, which will stop that game. . . .

These little items may all be known to you, but, as they came so direct to me, I believe it is my duty to send them.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Gen. Grenville Dodge

Friday, February 22, 2013

February 21, 1863

February 21, 1863

---As the Indianola posts itself at the junction of the Red River with the Mississippi, Col. Ellet and his crew on the transport Era No. 5 crawls slowly upriver towards Vicksburg.  At one point, they are attacked by two Rebel cannon on shore---and although 36 rounds are fired at the ship, only one hits a cotton bale and bounces off.  The Era No. 5 arrives at a Union wharf just south of Vicksburg, in safety.

—Today, on the high seas the commerce raider CSS Alabama overhauls and captures two Yankee merchant vessels — the bark Olive Jane and the ship Golden Eagle — and burns them at sea.

—The New York Times publishes an editorial about reports of conflict and ill-will between black troops and white troops in the Department of the Gulf (HQ in New Orleans).  Note the incipient racism in the Times ‘ prescription for solving the ill-will.  It is interesting to us, in the 21st Century, perhaps, to see the ingrained racist assumptions about African-Americans and their characteristics and even genetic dispositions — assumptions that appear to be universal amongst all white people, even the enlightened anti-slavery folks of the Northeast:

Our New-Orleans correspondent confirms the rumors which have been current as to difficulties between the white and black regiments at Ship Island and Baton Rouge, in the Department of the Gulf. We see no reason why this state of things should be allowed to spring up. White and black troops should not be brigaded together or stationed together. The Emancipation Proclamation specified the use to which black troops should be primarily put, when raised, as “garrisoning forts and positions;” and there are forts enough now in our hands in the Gulf Department to furnish duty for ten times the number of black troops we have there. As we advance up the river, too, there will be a continual demand for post garrisons. When the sickly weather comes on, in the Gulf and on the river, our while soldiers will be glad enough to have this work taken off their hands by the acclimated negroes; and there will be no quarreling for precedence in the duty.

We think it would be far better to employ in this kind of service the few negro troops we have, and not put them to active field duty at present. We need not doubt that Col. HIGRINSON’s black battalion exhibited all the “fiery energy” which he claimed for them; but the greater part of the black men of the South will require a great deal of discipline and training before their fiery energy can be relied on in the field of battle. The historical antecedents of the negro in this country are of anything but the fiery or energetic style. Time may bring forth trails of character that have been dormant for generations, but it will require time to bring them forth. Garrison duty, with occasional skirmishes, will furnish an excellent means of training, to begin with.

—In today’s issue of Harper’s Weekly, we find these bon mots of humor in a feature called “Humors of the Day” on page 115—which include some real groaners:

"My affairs tend downward," as the oyster said when about to be swallowed.

Why is a windy orator like a whale?—Because he often rises to spout.


As Tom and his wife were disputing one day

Of their personal traits, in a bantering way,

Quoth she, "Though my wit you disparage,

I'm certain, dear husband, our friends will attest

That, compared with your own, my judgment is best!"

Quoth Torn, "So they said at our marriage!"

"I'll bring a suit for my bill!" said an enraged tailor to a dandy who refused to pay him. "Do, my dear fellow," replied the imperturbable swell, pointing to his threadbare clothes, "that's just what I want."

"I haven't another word to say, Sir; I never dispute with fools." "No," was the reply, "you are very sure to agree with them."


A coffin to bury the Dead Sea.

The saucer into which the cup of misery overflowed.

A night-cap to fit the head of a river.

The match which kindled the fire of love.

A pair of spectacles to suit the eyes of Justice.

A remedy to cure the deafness in the ears of corn.

The broom with which the storm swept over the sea.

Why is an Israelite named William Solomon similar to a public festival?
Because he is a jubilee (Jew Billy).

February 20, 1863

February 20, 1863

—The Quincy (Ill.) Daily Whig and Republican newspaper, reports on an incident in nearby Keokuk, Iowa, where the recovering wounded soldiers in the Army hospital there have stormed the offices of the Keokuk Constitution, looted the office, scattered the type, and destroyed the press, due to the Constitution’s disloyal “Copperhead” biases:

“Cleaning Out” of the Keokuk “Constitution.

[From the Gate City, Feb˙ 20.]

Yesterday afternoon a large number of soldiers from the Hospital marched down to the Constitution office, and taking possession of it, broke up the presses and threw, with the cases of type and all other contents of the building, into the street. A couple of drays were pressed into the service, which carried a load of each to the river. This movement took everybody by surprise, but the numbers were so formidadble that no opposition was made (except the personal efforts of Lieut˙ Ball, commandant of the post, and perhaps some others,) until the contents of the office were in ruins. Lieut˙ Ball at length got together the Provost Guard, when the work of destruction was brught to a close. We are told that the cause of the outbreak was the indignation of the soldiers at the comments in the constitution of the 18th and 19ht inst˙, upon the speech of Gov˙ Wright. No one, so far as we are aware, excepting the soldiers engaged in it, knew anything of the movement, until it was consummated.

We publish below, at the request of the soldiers, the pledge which they made, setting forth the reasons for destroying the Constitution Office. It will not be deemed by any inappropriate to allow an expression from the soldiers engaged in this act, that public opinion may be fully informed in regard to all the circumstances of the case. This paper was signed by 150 soldiers of the hospital, most of whom, we understand, are awaiting transportation to return to service.

KEOKUK, IOWA, FEB˙ 19, ’63.

We, the undersigned soldiers of the U˙S˙ army being fully convinced that the influence of a paper published in this city called “The Constitution,” edited by Thos˙ Clagget, has exerted and is exerting a treasonable influence, (inexcusable by us soldiers) against the Government for which we have staked our all in the present crisis. We, therefore, consider it a duty we owe ourselves, our brethren in the field, our families at home, our Government and our God, to demolish and cast into the Mississippi river, the press and machinery used for the publication of the aforesaid paper, and any person or persons that interfere, so help us God.

—On this date, the Richmond Daily Dispatch comments on the proliferation of Copperhead pro-McClellan sentiment in the North with this wry editorial on Yankee military talent:

There must be an awful dearth of military genius in the United States, when the restoration of McClellan to the chief command of the Army of the Potomac is urged by leading Northern journals as the only means of crushing the rebellion. If ever a man had been tried in the balances and found wanting, it is that same G. B. McClellan. Old Wingfield Scott, after being allowed only three months and fifty thousand men, was thrown overboard because he did not succeed in his “On to Richmond;” whilst McClellan, with a whole year for preparation, and a hundred and fifty thousand men, was whipped out of the Peninsula like a thieving bound, and yet his friends complain because he was removed, and insist that nothing but his restoration will restore the Union.

— The New York Herald reports on an event at the White House this evening:  "Public reception at White House to-day was very numerously attended. . . . The President was cordial in his greetings, and Mrs. Lincoln manifested towards all visitors the affability for which she is distinguished."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 19, 1863

February 19, 1863

—Rear Admiral Samuel P. Lee, USN, commander of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, sends order to Commander Alex Murray, USN, in command of the Union flotilla in the coastal waterways of North Carolina, to conduct a campaign on the rivers of North Carolina—namely, the Neuse, the Tar, and the Roanoke—to search out and destroy the ironclads that the Confederate Navy is building on them. The rivers named rise with the spring floods, and will allow the Rebels to sortie, but will also allow the Federal flotilla to steam up the streams to get at the nearly-completed Rebel vessels. Murray is ordered to use the troops of Gen. Foster in cooperation for this mission.

—Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, well-known for his animosity towards the Press, writes about the subject to his brother John Sherman, a U.S. Senator from Ohio:
We have reproached the South for arbitrary conduct in coercing their people; at last we find we must imitate their example. we have denounced their tyranny in filling their armies with conscripts, and now we must follow her example. We have denounced their tyranny in suppressing freedom of speech and the press, and here, too, in time, we must follow their example. The longer it is deferred the worse it becomes. Who gave notice of McDowell’s movement on Manassas and enabled Johnson so to reinforce Beauregard that our army was defeated? The press. Who gave notice of the movement on Vicksburg? The press. Who has prevented all secret combinations and movements against our enemy? The press.
In the South this powerful machine was at once scotched and used by the Rebel government, but in the North was allowed to go free. What are the results? After arousing the passions of the people till the two great sections hate each other with a hate hardly paralleled in history, it now begins to stir up sedition at home, and even to encourage mutiny in our armies.

—In Virginia, Gen. Hooker continues in his reforming of the Army of the Potomac, tightening up loose ends in the observation of the Sabbath, the organization of topographical engineers, provost regulations, and the rules governing the resignation of officers from the Army.

—The Richmond Daily Dispatch publishes an editorial that wonders just why the stupid abolitionist Yankees cannot seem to learn anything about the negro’s true character, in rather virulent racist terms:
One of the few indications of reason and common sense which has been given by any party in the United States since this war begun is the resolute purpose manifested by the Conservatives to resist the emancipation policy of Abraham Lincoln. They seem clearly to comprehend that "fighting for the negro" is the most asinine of all human occupations, and would be, if successful, a triumph over Northern commerce not less than Southern independence.

There was, before the war, some honest ignorance in the North of the true condition and character of the negro; but the war has introduced Cuff and his relations to all mankind. He is no longer an object of mystery and romance. It familiarity has not bred contempt for him as yet in the eyes of the Black Republicans, it has sickened their Democratic allies to the very bottom of their stomachs. . . . They are discovering that they are valuable in the right place, but that place is not in the free States, nor where they can come in competition with white labor. They perceive that the negro only works upon compulsion; and that unless he is made to work, and that in cotton, rice, and tobacco, Northern conservation[?], alias Northern commerce and goods, must go to destruction. It is surprising that other nations, such as England, have not long ago made the same discovery.

Are they awake or asleep that the developments of such a war as this add nothing to their stock of knowledge of negro character! Instead of an element of weakness, do they not see that they are a corner-stone of a nation’s strength in war? Is it not better that black barbarians should, by subjection to the mild restrictions of Southern servitude, be made the most useful and productive class of human laborers, than that they should roam the dirty alleys and cellars of the North in filth and freedom?

—Major Alexander Biddle of the 121st Pennsylvania Volunteers Infantry, writes home to his wife about the incessant rain in Virginia:
Head Qrs 121st Reg P.V.
Camp near Belle plains Virg
Thursday February 19. 1863

Dear Julia
I write to you after over 60 hours of rain snow and rain the rain began last Monday afternoon next morning we had a thick snow and since that rain rain rain -- last nights and yesterday we could not read a book in our house without a drop falling on the open pages and when laid down upon my bed with india rubber beneath and india rubber above the dripping from our canvas roof kept up a lovely pattering outside my covering Hall told me when I moved in the night there was a small shower from my bed – when I rose I found my shoes nicely filled with water and everything wet around us – the rain however had nearly ceased and we had but little difficulty in getting ourselves comfortable again. . . .
A typical army winter hut, showing the chimney made of logs plastered with clay, the dugout cabin, sleeping platform, and A-frame of poles where the "roof" (canvas tent) was stretched.

—A skirmish is fought near Coldwater, Mississippi, between the 1st Indiana Cavalry and several hundred Confederate cavalry. The Federals rout the Rebels, killing 6, wounding 3, and capturing 15.

Monday, February 18, 2013

February 18, 1863

February 18, 1863

---Virginia:  Gen. Robert E. Lee sends orders to Gen. Longstreet to take command south of the James River and to keep an eye on Richmond: he is to take two divisions and sufficient artillery in order to interdict Union operations near Norfolk and Suffolk county.  The increase of Union troops on the Peninsula has Richmond worried, too.  This mission will keep Longstreet busy until mid-May. 

---Mississippi River Campaign:  General Ulysses S. Grant writes to General Halleck in Washington that the work is going well on the canals being  built at Lake Providence and near Vicksburg, although the Vicksburg canal, cutting across the bend in the river upstream, will likely not work.  Of the use of escaped slaves for labor, Grant tells Halleck that “I am using a few hundred contrabands on the work here, but have been compelled to prohibit any more coming in. Humanity dictates this policy.  Planters have mostly deserted their plantations, taking with them all their able-bodied negroes and leaving the old and very young. Here they could not have shelter nor means of transportation when we leave.”
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant

---Silas Everett Fales, a soldier in the 42nd Massachusetts Infantry Reg., serving in Louisiana, writes home to his wife about the differences between home and the exotic South:

. . . I should like to be at home but I want my time to be out first If I ever get home I can tell you something of Military life: something you never dreamed of Tonight I hear the church bells rining in New Orleans the air is soft like spring frogs are peeping in the swamp birds singing and if I could see nothing I could fancy myself at home in May but to look around it is not like New England teams are drawing wood and cannon stores are open Peddlers are on the field selling pies oyster fruit &c. groups of Negros are walking lazily round ragged and dirty but (more intelligent than those of Hilton Head) on the whole I see nothing that looks like the christen Sabbath I hear the cars passing down to the city now. One will learn to prize the institutions of the north by living hear awhile. We are camped inside of a race course they have had one or two races since we have been here Sunday is a common day for them . . .

---Referring to a Confederate-ordered massacre of negroes in Federal service, the London Daily News prints this editorial:

The wanton murder near Murfreesboro of twenty Negro teamsters who were in the service of the Federals appears to be taken as a matter of course by the advocates of the South in this country. We must presume that they know their friends, and see no reason to be surprised. And yet there are circumstances in this case which should make them anxious for a reputation in which they have so far involved their own. These Negroes were not killed in the pursuit of any military purpose. They were not on the battle-field; they were not making armed resistance. They were on the turnpike road driving their wagons when the Confederate party came up. . . .

It is important to notice that this butchery was not perpetrated in some corner of Secessia, by agents out of the reach of authority or public opinion. It was the work of officers of the great confederate army of the West, under the orders of General Bragg. There was nothing in the attitude of the Negroes to make a sudden resolution necessary; we must, therefore, assume that their murder was the effect of a previous determination. . . . The inevitable hour when the true issues of this war were to be disclosed has come, and the South unfurls the black flag—its own flag—accordingly.

A carefully-crafted representation of the gallant cavaliers of the South

---In Massachusetts, Gov. Joseph Andrew calls for the raising of a black regiment in his state, to be designated the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.

---Col. Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio writes in his dairy of the pleasant visit of his wife and children up on the Alleghenies of western Virginia at his regiment’s winter camp:

February 18, [1863]. — Lucy, Birch, and Webb came up here on the 24th of January. We have had a jolly time together. We have rain and mud in abundance but we manage to ride a little on horseback or in a skiff; to fish a little, etc., etc. I was more than two weeks housed up with left eye bloodshot and inflamed. Birch read “Boy Hunters and Voyageurs,” and Lucy the newspapers.

---Horatio Nelson Taft writes in his journal of the varieties of anti-slavery feeling in the North, and how the hard-core Abolitionists and the moderates end up supporting the same thing:

There are two kinds of Abolitionists just now. One kind perhaps make the abolition of Slavery the prime object and care more for that than they do for the Union. The other kind care much less about Slavery, in fact consider it but an incidental question compared with the Union, and are willing to abolish it, if that will abolish the rebellion and in that spirit they “go in” for the Presidents Proclamation of freedom. I go for using all the means that God and Nature has put into our hands to crush out the Rebellion. The moral effect of the proclamation will help us much throughout the world, and that may be its greatest advantage.

---John Beauchamp Jones, a clerk in the Ward Department of the C.S.A., in Richmond, notes with alarm the rapidly worsening food shortage for civilians as well as soldiers in Virginia:

All the necessaries of life in the city are still going up higher in price. Butter, $3 per pound; beef, $1; bacon, $1.25; sausage-meat, $1; and even liver is selling at 50 cents per pound.

By degrees, quite perceptible, we are approaching the condition of famine. What effect this will produce on the community is to be seen. The army must be fed or disbanded, or else the city must be abandoned. How we, “the people,” are to live is a thought of serious concern.

February 17, 1863

February 17, 1863

---Yazoo Delta, Mississippi: In a bid to gain access to the back door of the Vicksburg via the tangled maze of rivers and bayous in the Mississippi/Yazoo delta area, by way of the Yazoo River and the Tallahatchie River, the Union forces have cut a break in the levee between the Mississippi and the Yazoo delta.  However, ambushes and obstructions laid across the narrow waterways by the Rebels have slowed the Union naval gunboats nearly to a stop.  Commander Isaac Brown, the C.S. Navy commander for the area, reports to Pemberton that he has nothing to stop them.  He has two boats, the Star of the West and the Mary Keene, but no crews for them.  Gen. Pemberton sends heavy artillery and more infantry to Yazoo City, a potential blocking spot. 

---The Richmond Daily Dispatch, in an effort to editorialize the North as being in dire straits, offers an argument that the Yankee nation is gasping its last breath, bereft of the necessary resources for their industry: Southern staples.  (Read: cotton):

Tuesday morning…Feb. 17, 1863.
What the North is fighting for

The North is fighting for self-preservation as much as for Southern subjugation, the latter of which is now chiefly desired because it involves the former. The time when, possessed of devils, is sought to exterminate the South, in a fit of foaming, diabolic phrensy, has long since passed, and, in spite of Lincoln’s proclamation, the clear, distinct object of the great mass of that nation in the further prosecution of this war is to save themselves from the overhanging avalanche of ruin which the success of the Southern cause must precipitate upon their heads.

They have learned a good deal since this war commenced. They were going to wipe us out in sixty days! . . . Two years of war, and they have not even taken Richmond, which lies on the margin of our territory, and is accessible by fine, navigable waterways. Wipe us out in sixty days! And now, after two years, they are engaged in a death struggle to keep themselves from being “wiped out” from the map of nations!

The final defeat of the North in this struggle involves its total bankruptcy — commercial, financial, and political. No lobster, divested of its shell, was ever more at the mercy of the rest of the animal creation. It produces nothing of its own which cannot be produced elsewhere in greater perfection. Its manufactories would tumble into ruins: for the South, their principal customer even if it could ever defile its hands again with Yankee actions, could buy cheaper and better elsewhere. Its ships would rot at the wharves; for the South would carry its staples in its own vessels, and the monopoly of the coasting trades the fishing bounties, &c., would be dreams of the past. . . . The Northwest would set up for itself. The Middle States would shake themselves clear of New England, which might humbly petition to be once more received as a British colony. These are some of the inevitable calamities which the North is now fighting to escape, but which, in all probability, no effort she can make will be sufficient to avert. Her doom is written, and, what is worse for her, it has been written by her own hand, and she will be her own executioner.

Without placing an invading foot upon her soil, without burning one Northern homestead, or bombarding one Northern town, the South has only to stand by and see the retribution which Providence permits these wretches, whose hands are stained with the innocent blood of our people, to inflict upon themselves.

---Horatio Nelson Taft of Washington, DC, writes in his journal about the progress of the war, and the beginning of the Conscription system for the North:

An important Bill passed the Senate last night to enrol the whole Militia force of the U.S. No one exempt but governors of States, all betwen 20 & 45 included and liable to draft. It passed unanimously. The Rebellion is to be put down at any cost of men and money. I am over “forty five” by 12 years but am not realy older than many men of fifty. I may volunteer yet if necessary. I am a volunteer now. The members of the “Union League” are all “Minute Men” “armed to the teeth” and always ready. We have pledged our lives in support of the Govt. Let Traitors South or North beware. There will soon be an irresistable power in the land, ready for all emergencies. I think myself that the Rebellion is near crushed out now than it has been for six months past.

---In his journal, Lieut. Josiah Marshall Favill, a young English immigrant serving in the 57th New York Infantry Regiment, writes of the delicious opportunity for a furlough to visit home, and of the disappointment in returning back to the army in the field:

It [request for leave of absence] was readily granted, and for the first time since 1861, I found myself in New York City again, amongst my friends, untrammeled by autocratic rules. What a luxury it was! I left camp on February 2d and was obliged to be back there on the 17th, so I had no time for hesitancy, and plunged directly into a round of gaieties. I called immediately upon H___, at the hotel on Fifth avenue, and found my status unimpaired, although no correspondence had passed between us. We visited the Russian warships then in port, and without any interruption, kept busy sight seeing, going to theaters, operas, etc., etc. The time seemed abominably short, and when the evening of the 16th arrived, and I had to take my leave for an unknown period and unknown vicissitudes, I was very desolate, but it was necessary to brace up, so I kept the faith and took my train, and rushed back to my home and duties with the grand old army in the field, carrying along a brand new uniform, new overcoat, boots, etc., and a very empty pocket book. I landed on the afternoon of the 17th in rear of the hills, just in front of Fredericksburg, where the train stopped, and the stores were all landed. Stepping on the ground I looked about me, hardly recognizing the country. All the trees for miles had been cut down for the use of the army, and it looked like a wilderness of stumps and mud. My man Green was on hand with the gray, and together we rode over the desolate country. It was cold and cheerless and I felt no enthusiasm in returning.

February 16, 1863

February 16, 1863

---Red River, Louisiana:  In the on-going saga of the river operations of the U.S. Navy downstream from Vicksburg, the CSS Webb, the steam ram being prepared by the Rebels at Alexandria, heads downstream in pursuit of the Era No. 5, which now carries Col. Charles Ellet and his crew, having escaped from the Queen of the West (which is now captured and in the hands of the Rebels).  Ellet and his Union crew steams downriver to the junction of the Red with the Mississippi and turns north, upstream, with extreme difficulty: the Era is not a powerful vessel, and they are running out of coal.  Ellet burns a lot of the corn left in the cargo for fuel, and finally moors at riverside for the crew to cut down trees for fuel---although the rains had made the wood too wet to burn well.  The Era continues upstream at a crawling rate of 2 knots.  Ellet’s secessionist pilot, Garvey (the same pilot who ran the Queen of the West aground), runs the Era aground right under the eye of Confederate batteries on the opposite shore, and Ellet puts him under arrest.  The ship’s paddlewheels have been damaged, yet they crawl upriver under cover of the fog and, just a few miles below Natchez, they gratefully encounter the USS Indianola, the ironclad gunboat that had been sent by Admiral Porter to join Ellet’s now-defunct reign of destruction on river shipping.

Chasing down the Red and up the Mississippi

  The CSS Webb, under command of William S. Lovell, comes steaming up the Mississippi and spots the two Union vessels; not wanting to take on a Union ironclad with the Webb ’s unfinished condition, Lovell hesitates.  The Indianola fires a few shots at the Webb, and Lovell decides that discretion is the better part of valor, and turns downstream to escape. 

The Pursuit of the CSS Webb after the Yankee river pirates

The Era No. 5 and Indianola tie up for the night, with Ellet and Capt. Brown decide to go up the Red River again and try to take Fort Taylor and destroy the Webb, if possible.

USS Indianola

---U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, confers with Asst. Sec. Gustavus Fox and President Lincoln about a proposed Army-Navy assault upon Charleston, So. Carolina.  Welles is worried about his relationship with the prickly and proud Admiral Samuel Du Pont, who is reluctant to engage in such a risky campaign:

All is clear and well enough but Du Pont should have such a force as to inspire confidence in himself and men in order to insure a favorable result. Will and determination are necessary to success. While it is right that he should be circumspect and vigilant, I deplore the signs of misgiving and doubt which have recently come over him, — his shirking policy, getting in with the army, making approaches, etc. It is not what we have talked of, not what we expected of him; is not like the firm and impetuous but sagacious and resolute Farragut.